Virgin Galactic is expected to take another step forward in its return to space with its first commercial flight, despite facing some setbacks over the past few years.
The 90-minute suborbital flight, prévue for Thursday morning, will involve three crew members from the Italian Air Force and the National Research Council of Italy doing numerous suborbital science experiments. Two of Virgin Galactic's astronauts plus four pilots will participate in the live-streamed mission.
Virgin Galactic's first test flight went off without a hitch last month.
Thursday's flight will be a week after the company revealed in a SEC filing that the company has been trying to raise capital by selling a maximum of $400 million worth of stock. Virgin Galactic will direct any proceeds from that move toward expansion of its spaceship fleet and infrastructure to scale its commercial operations, and for general corporate purposes, including working capital and general and administrative matters, Virgin Galactic said.
The company reported a net profit of about $300 million from tens of millions of shares it had already sold.
Virgin Galactic reported a net loss of $159.4 million in fiscal 2023, primarily driven by investments to the development of the future fleet and enhancements for the current fleet, and total revenue of $392 million. Net losses have also occured during each of Virgin Galactic's fiscal years since its IPO in 2019, SEC filings show.
In the past, upgrades and other factors have led to delays in the company's commercial efforts.
The most recent test flight to have happened other than May s was one in July two years ago that flew billionaire founder Richard Branson and several others. Virgin Galactic briefly faced a Federal Aviation Administration investigation and grounding in connection to an airspace deviation in the July 2021 flight's return to Earth, later getting cleared by the agency after making some changes, FOX Business previously reported.
The company has said that it plans to start operating regular spaceflights later in 2023. The commencement of those will take place following Thursday s mission and another private astronaut mission, Galactic 02, set for early August.
In May, CEO Michael Colglazier said Virgin Galactic's next generation of spacecraft would be the key driver of revenue growth and profitability as Virgin Galactic scales the business over the long term. CFO Douglas Ahrens said the Delta-class ships, for which the company is currently targeting 2026 for their commercial debut, will bring in at least $2.7 million in revenue for each suborbital trip they make based on $450,000 per ticket prices.
Virgin Galactic faces competition from Elon Musk's SpaceX and Jeff Bezos Blue Origin in a space race that has been raging.