Virgin Galactic delays next spaceflight due to tougher COVID-19 rules

The delay may be necessary as coronavirus infections rise rapidly across the US — even with safety protocols in place, there’s no guarantee Virgin can avoid staff getting sick. However, this also casts doubt on the company’s schedule for commercial flights. This was the first of two final test flights scheduled before Richard Branson hopped aboard in early 2021 and cleared the way for paying passengers. Now, it’s not clear if the spaceflight outfit will come anywhere close to its previous timetable.

That could significantly hurt the company’s bottom line. It has been counting on commercial flights to make up for years of losses, and went so far as to launch its One Small Step reservation program to get firmer commitments. This delay won’t necessarily lead would-be passengers to cancel their deposits, but people who were contemplating a ticket to space might hold off until they have a better sense of when they might fly.