Virgin Galactic delays launch of space tourism service

Virgin Galactic has postponed the commercial launch of its suborbital space tourism due to “escalating supply chain and labor constraints”.

The company said that instead of launching the service as it had planned by the end of this year, it now expects to be able to board its rocket-powered spaceplane for the first paying passengers in the first quarter of 2023.

In a recently released statement, Virgin Galactic CEO Michael Colglazier said: “We are executing our plans to scale the business by developing our future fleet, investing in digital manufacturing technologies and building out our commercial strategy to deliver a consumer experience. like no other to offer.”

Colglazier added: “Against a backdrop of escalating supply chain and labor constraints, our teams are managing most of these issues to minimize the impact on schedules. We look forward to returning to space in the fourth quarter and into the launch commercial services in the first quarter of next year.”

Speaking later about the supply chain issues, the CEO said the high-performance metallics required saw longer delivery times. In terms of hiring, the company is hiring more engineers, but they are spreading their time across multiple projects, including the next-generation space plane, Imagine.

The suborbital space journey

Wealthy clients must hand over $450,000 for a 90-minute experience that will take them to the edge of space and back.

A video (below) released by Virgin Galactic earlier this year shows potential customers exactly what to expect for their money.

As the images show, the experience begins with the VSS Unity spaceplane being carried skyward by a larger carrier aircraft. When it reaches an altitude of 50,000 feet, the carrier plane releases Unity, after which it starts its rocket motor to propel it to the Kármán Line, the point 62 miles above the Earth that is generally considered to be where space begins.

The passengers can then leave their seats to experience several minutes of weightlessness while taking in the breathtaking view of the Earth and beyond. Unity will then slide back to Earth for a runway.

Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson took part in the system’s first fully-manned test flight last year, which began and ended at Spaceport America in New Mexico.

Blue Origin, owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, is looking to launch a similar space tourism service with its New Shepard rocket. Bezos flew on Blue Origin’s first manned test flight last year and the company has since operated three more manned flights as it heads towards the official launch of commercial service, although the company has not yet announced a date for when it will launch.

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