The new class of space tourist ship for Virgin Galactic Spaceship, called Delta, is coming together with a new deal to fly Axiom Space astronauts along with contracts to secure key suppliers, the company said in press releases this week. Delta may fly as frequently as once a week and is slated to enter service in 2026.
Virgin Galactic Spaceship has made four crewed test flights (the latest was in July 2021), and has since delayed its return to space several times due to pandemic-related supply issues for upgrades. Competitor Blue Origin, meanwhile, aced six operational tourist flights before an uncrewed rocket failure in September.
Virgin Galactic has postponed the launch of Galactic Spaceship space tourism service again, forcing those who have already purchased tickets in advance to wait in line even longer before they can make the most incredible journey of their lives. The news was a disappointment for 600 people who a few years ago forked out USD 250 thousand for a seat in a rocket plane, as well as for about 100 people who recently bought tickets at a higher price — USD 450 thousand.
More information about whether Galactic Spaceship will meet their newer return-to-flight target of spring 2023 should come today (Nov. 3) when the company releases financial results after markets close. Virgin’s stock price is down 90% from a year ago.
On August 5, Virgin Galactic Spaceship announced that it was forced to move its commercial space tourism services to the second quarter of 2023 instead of the first. Thus, this is the third such delay in 10 months. Moreover, there is no guarantee that it will not be the last.
Galactic Spaceship delay is due to the improvement of the VMS Eve carrier aircraft, which requires more time than expected. The carrier aircraft was built to help the VSS rocket plane reach the Pocket line (100 km above the Earth), which is considered the boundary of space.
Ahead of quarterly results, Galactic Spaceship released a pair of deals Wednesday and Thursday (Nov. 2 and 3) previewing its spaceflight plans, including how it plans to get Delta ready. The company previously said paying tourists may climb aboard Delta as soon as 2026.
Despite the setback, Virgin Galactic CEO Michael Colglazier made it clear to his clients that preparatory work for the maintenance of commercial space tourism is continuing. For example, the Aurora division of Virgin Galactic is also building a new carrier aircraft in cooperation with Boeing. The new space plane will be named Imagine.
One of Galactic Spaceship next flights with the current-generation SpaceShipTwo, which flies to space after detaching mid-air from carrier ship Eve, will help an Axiom astronaut get accustomed to weightlessness ahead of a flight to the International Space Station. The Houston-based company has three commercial flights with SpaceX booked, Ax-2 through Ax-4, following the success of Ax-1 in April.
“Although our plans envisage the launch of a commercial service in the second quarter of 2023, progress in the development of the future fleet continues. Many key elements of our roadmap are already ready for significant business scaling,” Michael Colglazier reassures clients.
“The Virgin Galactic Spaceship spaceflight, tentatively scheduled for next year, will prepare an Axiom Space astronaut for an upcoming trip to orbit, while conducting microgravity research to supplement the work they will do,” Virgin officials stated.
Virgin Galactic Spaceship also announced this week that two companies would manufacture parts for Delta starting in 2023.
Bell Textron will supply the “feathering” system that controls re-entry, along with flight control surfaces. Qarbon Aerospace will create the fuselage and the wing. The amount of the two contracts was not disclosed.
At the same time, Virgin Galactic Spaceship main competitor in the space tourism sector, Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, has already made six successful launches with space tourists aboard the New Shepard rocket. A few years ago, two companies were fighting for leadership in this field. Despite the fact that Virgin Galactic Spaceship was the first, Blue Origin clearly won this race.
Pointing to a deal earlier in 2022 that will see Boeing subsidiary Aurora Flight Sciences build two new motherships, Virgin Galactic CEO Michael Colglazier said in a statement(opens in new tab) that Delta builds are ready to move forward. “We now have the primary suppliers in place,” Colglazier said Tuesday (Nov. 2).