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Virgin Galactic Postpones Unity 23 Flight for Upgrades

Modification, Testing, Needed Before Italian Air Force Mission

Virgin Galactic will take time from their projected launch schedule for the upcoming Unity 23 flight to begin an enhancement program for VMS Eve and VSS Unity.  As part of their continuing quality assessments, material testing returned data outside of planned specifications, specifically a reduction in the strength margins of materials used in a number of joints in the aircraft. 

As a result, the projected launch for Unity 23 has been postponed, and commercial service of the aircraft tentatively expected in the 4th quarter of 2022. 

Virgin is clear that the reduction in margins should not have any impact on safety, but would only affect the further reaches of the flight envelope, encountered in rare circumstances outside normal operation. In order to rectify any problems and improve durability for future commercial service, an enhancement program has been combined with a previously planned series of modifications. Once complete, the completed vehicles will undergo test flights before receiving approval for a return to service. 

Michael Colglazier, CEO of Virgin Galactic, said: “Our decisions are driven by detailed and thorough analysis, and we fly based on the most accurate and comprehensive data available. Virgin Galactic vehicles are designed with significant margins for safety, providing layers of protection that far exceed loads experienced and expected to occur on our flights.

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. We are deeply appreciative of the Italian Air Force Research Mission and grateful for their continued partnership with us in this test flight program.”

The Unity 23 test flight, a joint effort with the Italian Air Force, had been given a variable window for its launch sometime in October, when a third-party supplier flagged a potential manufacturing defect in a component of the flight control actuation system they supply to Virgin Galactic. That defect, announced on September 10, has been resolved, when detailed inspections found the equipment to be within specification and ready for flight.



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