What happened

Virgin Galactic (SPCE -3.57%) stock dropped 15.5% in Wednesday trading. Don't cry too hard for the company, though -- the stock is still up 300% in the past couple of months.

Why did Virgin Galactic go down so much today, though? One word tells the tale: earnings.  

Chalkboard drawing of arrow going down over whe word DOWN

Image source: Getty Images.

So what

Or rather, the complete lack of earnings. Virgin Galactic has yet to put its first paying passenger in space, and until that happens, earnings -- and for that matter, revenue -- is going to be pretty hard to come by. Yet even so, investors were caught off guard by the scale of Virgin's losses.

In the company's Q4 earnings report released last night, Virgin reported that in all of Q4 2019 it collected only about a half-million dollars in revenue, down more than half from Q4 2018. It then managed to lose $72.8 million -- 60% more than it lost in the year-ago quarter.

Total losses for the year came to $210.9 million on sales of $3.8 million.

Now what

All of this, as I said, was to be expected. Virgin can't be expected to make much revenue or earn much profit on its revenue until it starts selling tickets and putting tourists into space. The good news here is that CEO George Whitesides avers that Virgin continues "to achieve key milestones in our mission to open access to space in a safe, innovative, and affordable way."

Infrastructure is slowly being built up to support flight operations at Spaceport America in New Mexico. A second spaceplane is hitting "critical design and build milestones," and a third spaceplane is already "50%" complete, all elements necessary to maximize flights -- and revenue, and profit -- once Virgin does begin flying.

Now we just need to figure out when that will happen.