COVID-19 knows no bounds. As if the pandemic was not wreaking enough havoc on Earth, it is indefinitely delaying a Virgin Galactic spaceflight test.
Just as SpaceX launched four astronauts to the International Space Station on Sunday, Virgin Galactic announced a postponement for its spaceflight that was slated to happen between Thursday and Monday. The delay is because of New Mexico’s heightened COVID-19 restrictions in light of surging numbers in the state where Virgin Galactic’s Spaceport America is located.
“We will be minimizing our New Mexico operations to the greatest degree possible,” Virgin Galactic CEO Michael Colglazier said in a statement that caused an 8% premarket trading drop Monday. “While these new restrictions cause us to adjust our flight schedule, we take this pause in stride and will be prepared to resume our pre-flight procedures and announce a new test flight window as soon as we can.”
The VSS Unity previously ran two test spaceflights from the Mojave Desert in California, where Virgin Galactic’s manufacturing and development facilities are located. In New Mexico, an operational base was constructed with two futuristic levels that includes a mission control and a lounge for paying customers.
The Unity winged rocket ship is carried by a carrier airplane and dropped when its rocket motor fires to send it to a 50-mile altitude. The Associated Press reported that Virgin Galactic has sold 600 reserved seats on the suborbital flights for $250,000 each.
After the next two test flights, Virgin Galactic founder Sir Richard Branson plans to fly on it before the commercial flights begin.
There were always safety concerns with Unity but that never figured on someone potentially being exposed to a virus.