Shares of Virgin Galactic Holdings (SPCE 1.87%) stock took off on Monday, rising 8.3% through 2:55 p.m. EST after the company confided -- almost as an aside -- that its suspension of test flights of its new spaceplane might not last as long as some investors may have feared.
One week ago to the day, Virgin Galactic shares took a tumble a week after the company warned of an indefinite suspension of its test flight schedule "in accordance with new guidelines from the New Mexico Department of Health to disrupt the spread of the COVID-19 virus in the state."
But in a tweet issued this morning, Virgin Galactic clarified that the New Mexico order it referred to in its earlier tweet actually only restricts its ability to run test flights for a two-week period.
We're ready to complete pre-flight preparation for our next spaceflight once we set our new flight test window. We temporarily minimized our footprint in New Mexico following the new two-week health order put in place. https://t.co/MlA4s7oJDQ pic.twitter.com/Bnwp3AmGoD— Virgin Galactic (@virgingalactic) November 23, 2020
Once this two-week period expires, therefore, it seems there's every possibility that Virgin Galactic will get right back to testing its spaceplane for commercial flight. In fact, as management attests, it is ready to get back to work -- just as soon as it has secured a new test flight window.
Granted, there's some risk of failing to read between the lines here. First, New Mexico's health order must expire, then Virgin needs to secure a new test flight window, then it needs to complete its "preparation," and only then can an actual test flight take place.
Still, the latest data out of New Mexico show a 33% decline in new COVID-19 cases over the past two days. The longer that trend continues, the sooner Virgin Galactic can get back to testing its spaceplane, and the sooner it can begin taking paying passengers on board for spaceflights.