What happened

Fresh off the news of a downgrade to sell that cost its stock 13% yesterday, shares of Virgin Galactic Holdings (SPCE -6.23%) took another hit on Thursday when analysts at investment bank Credit Suisse effectively downgraded the stock yet again.

Technically, this wasn't a downgrade per se but a resumption of coverage of a stock previously dropped from coverage. But when Credit Suisse took up covering Virgin Galactic again today, its rating had dropped to neutral, and with a lower price target to boot, of $30 per share. In response, Virgin Galactic shares closed down 6.3%.

Glowing red stock chart arrow trending down.

Image source: Getty Images.

So what

What has Credit Suisse feeling less optimistic about Virgin Galactic than the last time it looked at the stock?

As StreetInsider.com reports, the analyst's prior outperform rating was "predicated upon catalysts such as the Branson flight and the start of commercial operations." And, well, the Branson flight has taken place, and it was a success. "However [commercial, revenue-generating space tourism flights have been] delayed to Q4 '22 (CSe) due to an extended maintenance and enhancement period."

As a result, "the catalyst path in the next 12 months is less robust," said the analyst -- or in plain English, Credit Suisse doesn't see a whole lot to get excited about in Virgin Galactic until at least late next year.

Now what

Going forward, predicts the analyst, investors can expect that Virgin Galactic will focus its efforts on designing a new Delta-class spaceplane as an upgrade to its current VSS Unity and VSS Imagine models. The Delta won't enter service before the first quarter of 2024 at the earliest, however, and Credit Suisse doesn't think Virgin Galactic will be able to build more than a couple of them per year.

In the meantime, Credit Suisse predicts Virgin Galactic might fly as few as six revenue-generating flights with Unity and Imagine between now and the end of 2022. By 2023, flight cadence might increase to as many as 25 to 30 flights. But the analyst doesn't think we'll see anything like 400 flights per year (Virgin's target) before 2027.

Long story short, Virgin Galactic's stock price is down today, and it could be a long time before we see it go much higher.