Virgin Galactic pushes back test flight in new setback

Virgin Galactic shares (SPCE) have rocketed 150% this year through 2-11-21

Virgin Galactic’s on Friday, pushed back the test flight of its SpaceShipTwo Unity spacecraft, which was set potentially for as early as Saturday.

The company, in a Tweet, cited needing more time for technical checks.

Richard Branson's Las Cruces, New Mexico-based aerospace company’s will have several opportunities to fly over the rest of the month.

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SPCEVIRGIN GALACTIC HOLDINGS INC.42.26-3.99-8.63%

Shares fell sharply Friday morning, following a nice run heading into the expected launch. The stock has gained 150% since the start of the year to $59.41 as of market close Thursday.

Virgin Galactic’s next test flight of its SpaceShipTwo Unity spacecraft could come as soon as Saturday. (Virgin Galactic via AP)

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Earlier this week, the flight appeared to be on track.

“We are making good progress in our pre-flight preparations,” the spokesperson said.

Two pilots from the NASA Flight Opportunities program will be aboard the rocket-powered craft for any test flights. The Unity will also carry research payloads, according to Virgin Galactic.

The latest setback follows a test flight in December that ended prematurely after the Unity’s rocket failed to ignite. The spacecraft glided down for a safe landing.

“Vehicle and crew are in great shape,” the company tweeted after the aborted flight.

Ben Reagan for Virgin Galactic

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Virgin Galactic said in a statement earlier this month that its team had analyzed the cause of the failed rocket ignition and carried out ground testing.

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SpaceShipTwo is a reusable spacecraft that can carry up to eight people, according to Virgin Galactic. Its hybrid rocket motor uses elements of solid and liquid rocket engines.

Last year, Virgin Galactic showed off the spacecraft’s sleek interior which is optimized for allowing passengers to float around while experiencing zero gravity.

Virgin Galactic plans to use the spacecraft for its future tourist flights. Hundreds of “future astronauts” have already paid $1,000 deposits for future trips, according to the company.