Virgin Galactic (SPCE) wasn’t able to set a firm date for a key test flight, even though the window for it to begin opens next week. Virgin Galactic stock fell.
In a statement Wednesday, Richard Branson’s space tourism company gave an update on the next steps for its SpaceShipTwo powered test flights.
Virgin Galactic announced that it had applied for a multiyear Federal Communications Commission license in September and that the test flight window for its SpaceShipTwo would open on Oct. 22.
“We expect our first spaceflight from Spaceport America to occur later this fall and we are pleased to confirm that we are still on track to meet this time frame,” the company said. “Although preparations are going well, we are not quite at the stage where we can confirm specific planned flight dates for either our VSS Unity or VMS Eve test flights.”
The first powered flight will have two pilots on board and will contain three payloads that are part of the NASA Flight Opportunities Program. It will be the first to take off from Virgin Galactic’s Spaceport America in New Mexico. Prior tests have taken off from the Mojave Air and Space Port in California and were unpowered glide flights.
A second powered test flight will follow with a crew of two test pilots in the cockpit and four mission specialists in the cabin. The primary objective of the second powered flight will be to evaluate the full customer cabin and hardware, as well as procedures and training details.
Virgin Galactic Stock
Shares fell 2.2% to close at 21.33 on the stock market today. Virgin Galactic stock has formed a cup base with a 27.65 buy point, according to MarketSmith chart analysis. Boeing (BA) shares rose 0.7%. The aerospace giant is an investor with its venture capital arm HorizonX holding a $20 million minority stake.
If those flights go as expected, Virgin Galactic has said it sees the first commercial flight in the first quarter of 2021.
Over the summer, Virgin Galactic cleared three new Federal Aviation Administration Verification and Validation elements, bringing the total number to 27 out of 29. It plans to complete the last two during the powered test flights.
Wall Street is extremely bullish on Virgin Galactic stock with all eight analysts giving it a buy rating or equivalent.
But Laura Forczyk, the founder of space consulting firm Astralytical, told IBD earlier that said she wanted to see “less hype, more science” and a “more realistic observation of where they are in the process” from Wall Street.
She expects test flights to drag on into next year with commercial flights not beginning until the end of 2021 or 2022.
Follow Gillian Rich on Twitter @IBD_GRich for space news and more.
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