Branson’s Virgin Galactic Drops After Rocket Test Is Delayed

Virgin Galactic Holdings Inc. dropped in early trading after the space tourism company announced that it had delayed a test flight of the SpaceShipTwo Unity that had been scheduled for Saturday.

“We have decided to allow more time for technical checks,” billionaire Richard Branson’s company tweeted Friday. “We are working to identify the next flight opportunity.” The Las Cruces, New Mexico-based company made the decision while running through preflight preparations.

The stock tumbled 9.2% to $53.95 at 9:37 a.m. in New York. Virgin Galactic has doubled since an aborted launch in December pummeled the shares.

The company had identified a flight window opening Saturday to run through the month, so another test could be scheduled soon.

A key objective of the flight will be to check work completed since the December test launch, when the onboard computer halted ignition of the rocket motor. The next step will be to assess that work during a rocket-powered flight, the company said. The flight is to be crewed by two pilots and will carry research payloads as part of a National Aeronautics and Space Administration program.

Virgin Galactic has planned to put the first tourists in space this year, with its founder inaugurating commercial suborbital rides.

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