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Virgin Galactic Delays Much-Anticipated Weekend Test Flight

By Lou Whiteman - Feb 12, 2021 at 9:15AM

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It's unclear whether the company expects to try the test during the current window.

Early this morning, Virgin Galactic Holdings (SPCE -0.46%) called off a much-anticipated test flight set for this weekend, causing the stock to drop more than 10% in pre-market trading.

The space tourism company had originally hoped to begin commercial flights last year, but pandemic-related complications have delayed testing. There was a failed attempt to reach space in December, but investors had been bidding up the shares in anticipation of Saturday's retry.

Virgin Galactic's Unity spacecraft in flight.

Virgin Galactic's Unity spacecraft. Image source: Virgin Galactic.

The company tweeted Friday morning that during the course of its pre-flight preparations, "we have decided to allow more time for technical checks." The company did not estimate how long a delay it was anticipating, saying only that "we are working to identify the next flight opportunity."

The current window to do tests runs through the end of the month.

It is quite possible the delay will be minimal, and Virgin Galactic will be able to remain on track to begin service later this year. But the stock is priced for perfection, with the shares up more than 120% so far in 2021 alone, and any setback is likely to be met with an oversize reaction from Wall Street.

The test flight was also to include three payloads from NASA, part of Virgin Galactic's effort to build a relationship with the space agency and diversify its revenue sources.

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