Mon, 06 Dec 2021

NEW YORK CITY, New York: Shares of Virgin Galactic fell up to 20 percent after the company announced that it was postponing its first commercial space flight for tourists.

While the first space tourism trip was scheduled for the third quarter of 2022, officials said it would now be delayed until the fourth quarter so repairs and upgrades could be completed.

Virgin Galactic also said there would be no additional test flights in 2021.

Virgin Galactic is competing with Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin and Elon Musk's Space X to dominate the space tourism industry.

Meanwhile, Virgin Galactic said a planned upgrade program, aimed at reinforcing the durability of its ships, would begin one month later than expected.

The upgrades are being carried out after tests revealed "a possible reduction in the strength margins of certain materials" used on its spacecraft.

"While this new lab test data has had no impact on the vehicles, our test flight protocols have clearly defined strength margins, and further analysis will assess whether any additional work is required to keep them at or above established levels," said company boss Michael Colglazier, according to the BBC.

Virgin Galactic, founded by British billionaire Richard Branson, said its next test flight - Unity 23 - is scheduled for summer 2022.

Following that flight, commercial tourist flights will begin.

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