Virgin Galactic is facing yet another setback for its commercial spaceflights. According to reports, Virgin has delayed its first commercial research flight, Unity 23, until at least mid-October.
The mission was supposed to take place in late September or early October, but a supplier warned of a potential “manufacturing defect” in the flight control actuation system, according to Virgin.
It’s unclear whether the defect exists in Virgin’s vehicles or whether any repairs are required. Virgin stated that the delay was due to an “abundance of caution.”
Three Italian Air Force members will conduct research on the effects of transitioning from regular Earth gravity to microgravity on both humans and the environment.
According to Virgin, this was unrelated to the FAA’s investigation of a deviation from the cleared flight path. When the flight will take off is also dependent on the FAA lifting a temporary ban on Virgin flights once the investigation is completed.
It’s not surprising that Virgin would be extra cautious. The company is still dealing with the fallout from its 2014 crash, and it is under more pressure than ever before now that it has paying customers for research and, eventually, regular passengers.
Delays like these may irritate Virgin Galactic as it strives to become a profitable company, but they may be worthwhile if they build trust and lead to more customers.