Virgin Galactic reveals new flight date after setback

Company's test flights had faced technical issues

Billionaire Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic announced Thursday that the next rocket-powered test flight of SpaceShipTwo "Unity" is targeted for Saturday.

The spaceflight company's test flights had faced month-long delays following engine and technical issues; earlier this month Virgin Galactic revealed it would likely need to adjust its testing schedule.


In a press release, the company said the May 22 test would be conducted, pending weather and technical checks and a maintenance review of the VMS Eve mothership jet aircraft that is designed to carry SpaceShipTwo to an altitude of around 50,000 feet. 

Virgin Galactic noted that analysis of a "known maintenance item in the tail" of VMS Eve – that was founded earlier this month during a post-flight inspection – had been completed and structures were determined to be "healthy."

"Following a detailed inspection and thorough analysis of our mothership, Eve, we have cleared our Spaceflight System for our upcoming flight. I want to thank our incredibly talented team of engineers, maintenance crew, quality inspectors and support staff for their diligence and hard work, which is testament to our commitment to safety and the integrity of our flight test program," CEO Michael Colglazier said.

The upcoming test will reportedly be crewed by two pilots and carry research payloads in partnership with NASA's Flight Opportunities program

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The company noted that a key objective of the flight would be to test the work completed on "VSS Unity" to lower electromagnetic interference levels experienced in a December test flight in addition to incorporating "all original test objectives, including assessment of the upgraded horizontal stabilizers and flight controls during the boost phase of the flight, evaluating elements of the customer cabin and testing the live stream capability from the spaceship to the ground."

Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo (SS2), the world's first commercial spaceline, lands at Moojave airport after successfully completing it's third rocket-powered supersonic flight. (Photo by Al Seib/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images) (Al Seib/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Following the flight, Virgin Galactic said its team would review data that would "inform" the next steps in the program.

The Street reported shortly after the release that Virgin Galactic stock jumped after the announcement.


The company, which hopes to begin commercial service to customers next year, has sold seats onboard its SpaceShipTwo suborbital spaceplane for as much as $250,000 and reported last year the company had more than 600 reservations.

Notably, the fourth spaceflight is scheduled to carry members of the Italian Air Force for Virgin Galactic's first "full revenue flight," generating $2 million. 

FOX Business' Brittany De Lea contributed to this report