In what the company characterizes as "an important flight test milestone in preparation for commercial service," Virgin Galactic (SPCE -0.46%) announced the successful completion of its first SpaceShipTwo test flight from Spaceport America. Climbing to an altitude of 50,000 feet, the VSS Eve carrier aircraft released the VSS Unity, which proceeded to fly independently, achieving a glide speed of Mach 0.70. The test flight represents the first time that the Unity has flown independently in New Mexico airspace.
Speaking to the company's achievement and its general assistance to the state during this period of unprecedented uncertainty, Michelle Lujan Grisham, governor of New Mexico, said that "Today's VSS Unity flight is another exciting milestone for Virgin Galactic's progress in New Mexico. We are extremely happy and proud of Virgin Galactic, not only for today's success but also for the exceptional way they have integrated into NM and supported the region and State during this stressful time dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic."
Virgin Galactic plans on analyzing data from today's flight followed by preparing for the next flight, which has not been scheduled yet.
While the company's achievement warrants recognition, the likelihood that Virgin Galactic commences commercial operations in 2020 seems unlikely. As fellow Fool, Beth McKenna, pointed out after Virgin Galactic reported its Q4 2019 results, due to complications arising from the spread of the coronavirus -- and other factors -- it seems unreasonable to expect the company to achieve its initial aspiration of sending people to space in Summer 2020.