What happened

Virgin Galactic Holdings (SPCE -2.97%) investors are having (another) bad day.

Admittedly, this has been happening a lot lately, with Virgin Galactic stock racking up losses of 23% over the last 10 days of trading on the Nasdaq. But today's decline of 4.9% through 11:30 a.m. EDT may have an actual reason behind it.

VMS Eve in flight IS Virgin Galactic

Image source: Virgin Galactic.

So what

Ever since Oct. 22, when the window opened for Virgin Galactic to run the next FCC-approved flight test of its VSS Unity spaceplane, investors have been watching for news that Virgin Galactic had moved a step closer to commercial operations -- and commercial-scale revenue growth. But when news of a flight test finally did come yesterday it was not what we had hoped for.  

Instead of flying VSS Unity to space, Virgin Galactic announced yesterday the successful flight test only of the VMS Eve "mothership" aircraft that will be used to carry VSS Unity to altitude, and release it to blast into space. And while repeated testing of the mothership is obviously useful, and a necessary precursor to the next test of the spaceplane, it's the latter that investors have been waiting for.

Now what

It's not all bad news, though. In announcing VMS Eve's successful takeoff and landing, Virgin Galactic did mention that it still plans to conduct its next test spaceflight "later this fall." Fall ends on December 20, so even in the very worst scenario, investors should only have to wait another 51 days to see VSS Unity fly again.