Virgin Galactic has set a new flight test window for its New Mexico-based VSS Unity Spacecraft. Taking place from the 13th February onwards, the flight will be crewed by two Virgin Galactic pilots and will carry research payloads from the NASA Flight Opportunities program.
As per Virgin Galactic's press release, 'A key objective of the upcoming flight will be to test the remedial work that has been completed since the December 12, 2020 flight when the onboard computer halted ignition of the rocket motor.' Since identifying and remedying the issue, extensive ground testing has taken place, with the next stage being the assessment and verification of this work during a rocket-powered flight.
The mission will also incorporate the previously planned objectives related to elements of the customer cabin and 'assessing the upgraded horizontal stabilizers and flight controls during the boost phase of the flight'. Whilst some of the company's customers were likely disappointed at the outcome of the December 12 test flight, safety is of paramount importance for all participants in the commercial race to space.
A leading indicator of Virgin Galactic's likelihood to be at the forefront of the next phase of space tourism (by taking its first paying customers to space) is its share price. As low as $15 in August 2020, the share price climbed above $53 yesterday (Feb 1 2021) after a strong run in the last two months – a reflection of the belief among many investors that the company will take customers to space this year.