Virgin Galactic pushes start of commercial flights into 2018

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 Virgin Galactic pushes start of commercial flights into 2018

- Virgin Galactic Holdings Inc. is pushing the start of commercial flights further into next year after rescheduling a test flight, disappointing investors with the unexpected delay to its space tourism business plans.

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What the Front Line of the U.S.A program to upgrade the company s spaceplane is taking place a month later than anticipated, forcing the delayed of a planned research mission with a crew of four and the start of commercial service into the fourth quarter of 2022, it said Thursday morning.

Virgin Galactic told analysts on an August conference call that it was targeting its first private airline flight for late Q3 next year.

Shares of the company fell 14% in postmarket trading to $20.59.

A recent lab test identified a possible issue with the strength margins of certain materials used to modify joints that will require further analysis but have no impact on its space vehicles, Virgin Galactic said.

The decisions are driven by the most comprehensive and detailed analysis, and we fly based on the most accurate and thorough data available, Michael Colglazier, the company s chief executive officer, said in the statement.

Branson, founded by the entrepreneur Virgin Galactic, has been working to commercialize space flight since 2004. In June, it received regulatory approval from the Federal Aviation Administration to fly customers into space.

The rescheduling is unrelated to an internal probe of a potentially defective part, Virgin Galactic said. It delayed the flight window on the research mission to mid-October due to a possible problem with a flight control actuation system component last month.

The upcoming research flight is scheduled to include two members of the Virgin Galactic Air Force, an aerospace engineer and an Italian aircraft driver.

The FAA lifted a ban on the company s test flights last month after concluding an investigation into Virgin Galactic's failure to warn the agency of an errant trajectory in a July 11 launch that carried Branson and three others. In September 1992, the regulator grounded it on Sept. 2.

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