This temporary grounding is part of the company’s strategy to focus on the development of the “Delta class” space plane, the next-generation suborbital vehicle.
The Virgin Galactic’s VSS Unity space plane, known for its impressive flight cadence, is set to take a hiatus. After completing its sixth flight in as many months during the Galactic 05 mission, Unity will remain grounded until January 2024, according to the Virgin Galactic representatives
The Virgin Galactic‘s CEO, Michael Colglazier, highlighted the advantages of the Delta class, noting that each Delta craft will have the capability to fly up to twice per week, an eight-fold increase in flight frequency compared to Unity. Furthermore, Delta vehicles can accommodate six paying passengers, compared to Unity’s four, resulting in significantly higher monthly revenue.
Colglazier emphasized that Unity’s role was to demonstrate the system, showcase the astronaut experience, and provide insights for the Delta program. The cost of supporting Unity’s flights exceeded the relatively modest monthly revenues.
The Virgin Galactic is streamlining its operations by laying off approximately 185 employees, representing about 18% of its workforce
The deliberate restructuring is aimed at cutting expenses and achieving an annual saving of approximately $25 million. The Virgin Galactic is on track to commence flight testing of the inaugural Delta spacecraft in 2025, with intentions to put it into operation by 2026, followed by additional Delta crafts in the subsequent months and years.
In an earnings call on November 8, the company disclosed a third-quarter 2023 revenue of $1.7 million, which is twice the amount recorded during the corresponding period in 2022. Nevertheless, the Virgin Galactic also registered a net loss of $105 million for the third quarter of 2023, marking a decrease from the $146 million net loss reported in the same quarter of the preceding year.