Virgin Galactic's next spaceflight test remains on track to launch in the coming weeks

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Virgin Galactic’s First Spaceflight on Dec. 13, 2018

Source: Virgin Galactic

Space tourism venture Virgin Galactic on Wednesday said it remains on track to conduct its next test spaceflight in the coming weeks.

“We expect our first spaceflight from Spaceport America to occur later this fall and we are pleased to confirm that we are still on track to meet this timeframe,” the company said in a blog post.

Virgin Galactic last month said in an FCC filing that the window for the next spaceflight was planned to open on Oct. 22, with test flights of the spacecraft’s carrier aircraft scheduled for Oct. 1 and Oct. 7. The company clarified on Wednesday that, “although preparations are going well, we are not quite at the stage where we can confirm specific planned flight dates for either” the test flights or spaceflight. Virgin Galactic said that it “will share updates for launch dates closer to the launch window being confirmed.”

Shares of Virgin Galactic were down about 3% in midday trading from its previous close of $21.81 before the announcement.

Test flight objectives

Additionally, the next spaceflight will be its first from the company’s operating base at Spaceport America in New Mexico. It will also be Virgin Galactic’s first spaceflight since February 2019, when the company launched chief astronauts trainer Beth Moses as the spacecraft’s first test passenger.

Virgin Galactic announced that the test flight will carry research payload under NASA’s Flight Opportunities program.

Flying a planetary scientist

The Southwest Research Institute also announced on Wednesday that planetary scientist Dr. Alan Stern will be one of the first to fly on a yet-to-be-scheduled Virgin Galactic mission, accompanying a payload of NASA-funded science experiments.

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