May 21, 2021: -Virgin Galactic stock jumped more than 20% in Thursday’s premarket after the space tourism company announced its next spaceflight test targets Saturday, following the completion of a maintenance review of its carrier aircraft.
The stock gets hit on concerns Virgin Galactic would delay the test from this month. A delay would compound issues that have put the store under pressure in recent months, which include increased competition with Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin.
“Following an inspection in detail and analyzing of our mothership, Eve, we cleared our Spaceflight System for our next flight,” Virgin Galactic CEO Michael Colglazier said.
Shares of Virgin Galactic increased nearly 22% in premarket trading from its previous close of $17.27.
Virgin Galactic leadership, when the company reported first-quarter results in the previous week, revealed that the target date for the next spaceflight test was going under evaluation due to a possible maintenance issue with VMS Eve. This aircraft carries the spacecraft before launch.
On Thursday, the company said its engineering analysis determined the VMS Eve “structures healthy,” clearing the aircraft for flight.
The company is working on completing its SpaceShipTwo system, with four test flights remaining before Virgin Galactic starts commercial service in the year 2022.
In December, Virgin Galactic attempted the first of those four tests, but the mission was cut short by an engine problem. The company scheduled a repeat of the flight attempt for February but then again delayed to May to give more time to address an electromagnetic interference issue with the flight computer of spacecraft.
The future spaceflight test will fly with just the two pilots and carry microgravity research payloads under NASA’s Flight Opportunities program. To resolve the issue that aborted the December attempt, Virgin Galactic said this flight test would now evaluate its customer cabin and test a Livestream from the spacecraft.
The company cautioned that Saturday’s attempt is dependent on final technical checks of the hardware and weather around Spaceport America in New Mexico.
Virgin Galactic’s stock was down 27% year to date as of Wednesday’s close, after shares soared above $60 in February. Its stock losses accelerated in the past two months after the test delays and share sales by Chairman Chamath Palihapitiya, founder Richard Branson, and Cathie Wood’s new space ETF.
The stock also fell after Bezos’ Blue Origin announced plans for a July 20 launch of the first crewed flight of its space tourism rocket, a move UBS warned likely removes Virgin Galactic’s first-mover advantage.