What happened

Virgin Galactic (SPCE 2.25%) reported its Q4 and full-year earnings last night, and if you look at the stock price right now, at 11 a.m. EST, you can see it's down 11.9% and safely assume that the news wasn't great -- you'd be right about that.

Expected to report $0.31 per share in losses on de minimis revenue for Q4, Virgin did precisely that. However, the news gets even worse.    

Big red arrow going down over a stock chart

Image source: Getty Images.

So what

Virgin Galactic isn't yet running space tourism flights to space, so it isn't collecting revenue from that, or profiting from it, either. As such, losses in Q4 were a foregone conclusion. We weren't expecting any kind of "earnings surprise," and we got none.

It was a bit surprising that Virgin Galactic had literally zero revenue for the quarter (total revenue for the year was $238,000). You'd think it might have sold advertising space on the hangar or something, maybe done some skywriting with the VMS Eve mothership, and collected a few bucks at least -- but no. Zero revenue dollars, zero revenue cents for the quarter.

The very biggest surprise of Virgin Galactic's earnings news, however, was also the most disappointing. After promising investors for weeks that a new space test flight of the VSS Unity spaceplane was imminent, and that indeed, the entire flight testing schedule might be wrapped up before the end of February, Virgin dropped this bombshell last night:

In 2021, Virgin will "continue to prepare for next rocket-powered spaceflight from Spaceport America, targeted for May 2021."

Now what

May 2021. As in not February 2021. Not March. Not April, either, but May.

Virgin Galactic just delayed its next test flight by a whole fiscal quarter. Of necessity, it postponed the first flight by its founder, Sir Richard Branson, by a quarter as well -- and the initiation of commercial flights, and the arrival of revenue, and of profits as well -- all by an entire three months. And it did all this without explanation, not telling investors that it has encountered some serious, unexplained technical difficulty that requires three full months to fix -- but not reassuring them that it didn't run into that sort of trouble, either.

No wonder investors are scared.