Virgin Galactic Holdings Inc. (NYSE: SPCE) said on Thursday that the maintenance review of VMS Eve (carrier aircraft) had been completed, and the next spaceflight test is now scheduled for Saturday, subject to weather and technical checks. Chief Executive Michael Colglazier said:
“Following a detailed inspection and thorough analysis of our mothership, Eve, we have cleared our Spaceflight System for our upcoming flight.”
Virgin Galactic’s shares jump 25%
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The announcement saw a 25% gain in Virgin Galactic’s shares on Thursday morning. The stock had been under pressure in recent weeks on concerns that the spaceflight company will postpone the test, resulting in issues, including increased competition from Blue Origin – Jeff Bezos’ privately funded aerospace company that revealed $2.4 million (£1.69 million) as the current highest bid for rocket trip.
The news comes a week after Virgin Galactic reported its financial results for the first quarter. At the time, the NYSE-listed company said that a possible maintenance issue with its carrier aircraft could delay the next spaceflight test. On Thursday, however, Virgin Galactic quoted its engineering analysis as it announced VMS Eve healthy for the flight.
Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo system is currently under development. Four test flights are currently scheduled before the California-headquartered company starts commercial service next year.
The test flight will only have the two pilots on board
The first of these four tests was originally scheduled for December 2020, but an engine problem cut the mission short. Virgin then rescheduled the flight for February but had to further postpone it to May to take its time and fix the spacecraft’s flight computer that met with an electromagnetic interference issue.
The test flight, as per Virgin Galactic, will not only focus on evaluating if the previous issues, including the ones that caused delays in December and February, have been properly fixed, but will also test livestream capabilities and assess its customer cabin. The test flight, it added, will only have the two pilots on board.
Virgin Galactic lost almost half of its intraday gain in a few hours after the market open on Thursday. Including the price action, the stock is now exchanging hands at $18.78 per share. In comparison, it had printed a year-to-date high of close to $60 per share in the second week of February.
At the time of writing, Virgin Galactic has a market capitalisation of $4.71 billion.