LAS CRUCES – Virgin Galactic told investors during its earnings report Thursday that its commercial space flight service will be delayed once more, and is not expected to begin until the second quarter of 2023.
The company is the anchor tenant of New Mexico’s Spaceport America, in Sierra County, from which it plans to launch passenger flights to the edge of space. The company flew a test flight with a full passenger cabin, including Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson, 13 months ago and since then has been in a maintenance period servicing its rocket plane and the aircraft that carries it into the air during the horizontal launch sequence.
Previously it had aimed to conclude its testing phase and begin commercial service early next year.
During the earnings call, CEO Michael Colglazier said the latest delay was because of longer-than-expected improvements for VMS Eve, the carrier aircraft, at its Mojave, Calif. manufacturing base.
The company reported a $111 million net loss during the quarter, exceeding last year’s second-quarter loss of $94 million; and a $93 million loss in adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization and is continuing to operate on cash and cash equivalents, including convertible debt. The company said it plans to issue $300 million in stock and is currently sitting on $1.1 billion.
Its operating costs have increased as it took a series of steps toward building out a fleet of new spacecraft and carrier airplanes. Last month, Virgin announced it will build a spacecraft manufacturing facility in Mesa, Arizona, expected to produce six vehicles per year, while Boeing subsidiary Aurora Flight Services will design and build two new carrier aircraft, the first of which is due in 2025.
Days ahead of the earnings call, Virgin also announced it had acquired land in Sierra County to build training facilities and accommodations for its passengers and guests.
The company aims to reach 400 flights from the spaceport annually. Until regular service begins, however, the company is hungry for revenue.
Over 800 seats have been reserved, with the current commercial ticket price at $450,000. On Thursday, the company said it will reserve 100 seats of its initial 1,000 for private and government research. Among its current obligations, Virgin Galactic is under contract with NASA to fly research payloads. Additionally, Colglazier announced other tickets will be sold via Virtuoso, a luxury travel service.
The announcement came the same day that Virgin Galactic’s space tourism competitor, Blue Origin, launched its sixth passenger crew from West Texas on its New Shepard rocket.
Algernon D’Ammassa can be reached at 575-541-5451, [email protected] or @AlgernonWrites on Twitter.