In an after-hours column, Investor's Business Daily (IBD) confirmed yesterday that Virgin Galactic "will provide an update on its test flight schedule this week."
Sketching out Virgin's plans, IBD reminded investors that Virgin has at least four more flight tests on its schedule before it begins accepting paying passengers onboard its spaceplane. First will be the crewed but passenger-less flight test promised to take place in May. A second test will then take place, also with no passengers aboard and no firm date yet set.
Then, Sir Richard Branson will personally test the spaceplane. (No date for this flight has yet been announced.) Finally, Virgin will run a mission in cooperation with the Italian Air Force. Only then will the company begin commercial space tourism operations.
Granted, that all sounds like it could take some time to wrap up. Indeed, most analysts following the company now believe Virgin Galactic won't begin commercial space tourism operations before 2022 at the earliest. By this time, Blue Origin almost certainly will have completed one or more commercial space tourism flights aboard its New Shepard rocket.
Still, turning lemons into lemonade, in a statement Monday Virgin Galactic was quoted saying it is actually "really important" that Blue Origin succeed -- even if it means Virgin loses the race to be first in this market -- because successful launches by Blue will "normalize the idea of human spaceflight to the market," encouraging more customers to buy tickets from Virgin Galactic as well.
I suppose that's one way to look at it.