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Next Virgin Galactic Test Flight Postponed Once More, Coming May at the Earliest

February came and went without Virgin Galactic conducting a new flight test of the VSS Unity, despite the company announcing at the beginning of the month the flight would take place by March.
VSS Unity and its carrier plane 1 photo
The last flight of the Unity took place in December last year, when because of a lost connection in the onboard computer which monitors the propulsion, the ignition of the rocket was automatically halted. The ship was then brought back safely down to Earth by the two pilots, CJ Sturckow and Dave Mackay.

At the beginning of February Virgin said it evaluated the problem and fixed what went wrong, without going into details. That apparently is not exactly the case, as revealed last week in an earnings call with investors.

According to Fox Business, citing company officials, the problem, "likely caused by electromagnetic interference”, is a bit more complicated and will require an additional two months of work to be fixed. That would mean the following Unity flight will not take place sooner than May.

"Our safety culture is built around the principle that everyone in the company has the ability to call attention to an issue," said according to the source Mike Moses, Virgin Galatic president of space missions and safety. "And that’s exactly the right approach when you’re dealing with human spaceflight."

It’s unclear what the postponement means for actual commercial flights into orbit, as Virgin never said when we are to expect tourists doing what presently only astronauts are doing. Even so, the company’s efforts to draw clients continue.

It is estimated a trip on the VSS Unity will cost about $250,000. For that, customers will get a medical evaluation, training, and eventually a short trip on the suborbital machine to an altitude of about 50 miles (80 km). So far, said Virgin, “many thousands of reservations” have been made.


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