- Virgin Galactic said Monday it’s delaying a pivotal crewed launch planned for mid-November due to COVID-19 restrictions in New Mexico.
- “[W]e take this pause in stride and will be prepared to resume our pre-flight procedures and announce a new test flight window as soon as we can,” CEO Michael Colglazier said in a statement Monday.
- The postponed November mission is scheduled to be the first human test flight from the company’s base Spaceport America in New Mexico.
- New Mexico announced statewide coronavirus restrictions Friday as COVID-19 cases are on the rise. State health officials have recorded 64,201 cases in total.
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Virgin Galactic announced Monday that it’s postponing a pivotal crewed spaceflight that it planned to launch in mid-November due to new COVID-19 restrictions in New Mexico.
The company originally planned its first human test flight from Spaceport America to take place between November 19 and 23.
But Virgin Galactic said in a statement Monday it’s rescheduling the test flight, given that the base of the company’s commercial operations is located at Spaceport America in New Mexico, where Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham announced COVID-19 restrictions Friday.
“With the health and safety of our team members in mind, and in accordance with the recent direction from the New Mexico Department of Health, we will be minimizing our New Mexico operations to the greatest degree possible,” Michael Colglazier, CEO of Virgin Galactic, said in the statement. “While these new restrictions cause us to adjust our flight schedule, we take this pause in stride and will be prepared to resume our pre-flight procedures and announce a new test flight window as soon as we can.”
He added: “Our team members at Virgin Galactic, our Future Astronauts, and our fans around the world remain incredibly excited for our upcoming spaceflight.”
New Mexico introduced statewide coronavirus restrictions on Friday, instructing people to stay at home except for essential trips, closing all non-essential businesses, and limiting bars and restaurants to takeout.
State health officials announced Sunday 1,033 additional COVID-19 cases in New Mexico, bringing the total number to 64,201. Seven additional deaths were also recorded.
The space travel company has already launched crewed missions in December 2018 and in February 2019 from its test facility in California’s Mojave Desert. The postponed November mission will be the first human test flight from Spaceport America in New Mexico.
If the test flight is successful, Richard Branson, Virgin Galactic’s founder, will himself step on board SpaceShipTwo — a winged vehicle designed to rocket up to six passengers for more than $200,000 a ticket.
Following Branson’s flight, the company said it will resume selling tickets for its luxurious VSS Unity spaceship complete with self-reclining seats in a spacious cabin.
So far, Virgin Galactic has sold at least 600 tickets for a trip into suborbital space and back to Earth, which is unofficially about 62 miles in altitude. The company has also taken $1,000 deposits on more than 900 additional tickets, and — additional to its space tourism business — is working to develop a supersonic passenger jet with the help of Rolls-Royce.
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