Virgin Galactic’s Long Game Intact Despite Short-Term Blip
Space travel has been advancing this year. Most recently, famous actor William Shatner became an astronaut on Blue Origin’s space flight. Shatner was a crew member on Jeff Bezos’ company’s New Shepard rocket as the space race among billionaires heats up. In addition to Blue Origin, Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic made a suborbital trip to space over the summer, while Elon Musk’s SpaceX took passengers into orbit in September.
As the only publicly traded commercial space travel company, Virgin Galactic’s stock has been thrust into the spotlight, for better or for worse. Most recently, shares took a dive after the company experienced a setback.
Commercial Space Flights Delayed
Branson’s company revealed that it would have to postpone its commercial space travel service until Q4 2022, with no further test flights planned for the remainder of 2021. Investors were frustrated, sending shares of Virgin Galactic spiraling 14% lower in after-hours trading.
Short Term Pain, Long Term Gain
Virgin Galactic has to perform a refurbishing process, which will last for the better part of a year, and it can’t launch its Unity 23 test flight until this program is complete. The Unity 23 test flight was previously expected for this month.
The company explained in a statement that a recent “lab-based test flagged a possible reduction in the strength margins of certain materials used to modify specific joints, and this requires further physical inspection.” This is forcing them to overhaul the schedule.
Flight test program update: We will begin our planned vehicle enhancement and modification period now, which is designed to improve performance and flight-rate capability for VMS Eve and VSS Unity. #Unity23 will take place upon its completion. Read more; https://t.co/oWC52MypkH pic.twitter.com/oVuJOobNMm
— Virgin Galactic (@virgingalactic) October 14, 2021
While Virgin Galactic’s short-term plans may have been disrupted, the company and the stock could be better off in the long run. As pointed out by the Fast Money traders on CNBC, if the company had proceeded with its spaceflights before it was ready, the end result could have been catastrophic. So while the company works on its rockets instead of doing another test mission to space, they are putting safety first. Virgin Galactic CEO Michael Colglazier stated,
“The re-sequencing of our enhancement period and the Unity 23 flight underscores our safety-first procedures, provides the most efficient path to commercial service, and is the right approach for our business and our customers.”
At this rate, Virgin Galactic is looking like a long-term play that could pay off for patient investors. The stock rallied this summer when Branson made history as a crewmember on a suborbital flight. Based on the latest data, the company is charging $450,000 and up for a seat on one if its spacecraft. Revenue projections hover at the $50 million mark for 2022, but that was before the latest delays. It’s unclear whether analysts will revise their forecasts and create longer-term pain for investors.