Virgin Galactic is expected to take another step forward this week in its return to space with its first commercial flight after facing some challenges over the years.
The 90-minute suborbital flight, slated for Thursday morning, will involve three crew members from the Italian Air Force and National Research Council of Italy doing numerous "suborbital science experiments," the company said in a press release. One of Virgin Galactic’s astronauts plus four pilots will also participate in the live-streamed mission.
Last month, Virgin Galactic’s final test flight went off without a hitch.
Thursday’s anticipated flight will come a week after the company revealed in a Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filing an effort to raise capital by selling a maximum of $400 million worth of stock. It will direct any proceeds from that move toward "development of its spaceship fleet and infrastructure to scale its commercial operations, and for general corporate purposes, including working capital and general and administrative matters," according to Virgin Galactic.
The company also reported about $300 million in gross proceeds from tens of millions of shares it had already sold.
In fiscal 2023’s first quarter, Virgin Galactic experienced a $159.4 million net loss that the company said was "primarily driven by investments to the development of the future fleet and enhancements for the current fleet," along with total revenues of $392 million. Net losses have also occurred during each of Virgin Galactic’s fiscal years since its IPO in 2019, SEC filings showed.
Upgrades and other factors led to delays in the company’s commercial efforts in the past.
The most recent test flight to have occurred other than May’s was one in July two years ago that flew billionaire founder Richard Branson and several others. Virgin Galactic briefly faced a Federal Aviation Administration inquiry and grounding in connection to an airspace deviation in the July 2021 flight’s return to Earth, later getting cleared by the agency after making some changes, FOX Business previously reported.
The company has said it has a goal of starting operating regular spaceflights later in 2023. The commencement of those will take place after Thursday’s mission and another private astronaut mission, Galactic 02, set for early August, according to a press release.
In May, CEO Michael Colglazier described Virgin Galactic’s next generation of spacecraft as expected to be the "key driver of revenue growth and profitability as [Virgin Galactic] scale[s] the business over the long term." The Delta-class ships, for which the company is currently targeting 2026 for their commercial debut, are expected to bring in at least $2.7 million in revenue for each suborbital trip they make based on $450,000-per-ticket prices, CFO Douglas Ahrens said at the time.
Virgin Galactic faces competition from Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin in a space race that has been heating up.
Virgin Galactic Holdings Inc