: Virgin Galactic cites potentially faulty part as it postpones its next space flight

United States

Virgin Galactic Holdings Inc. has postponed its next space flight till at least mid-October, saying late Friday that a potentially faulty part could have found its way into a flight-control system.

Virgin Galactic shares SPCE, -2.02% dropped around 1% in the extended session Friday after ending the regular trading day 2% lower.

The suborbital flight, called Unity 23, was scheduled to launch in late September or early October, carrying Italian Air Force members and scientists.

Out of an “abundance of caution,” however, Virgin and a supplier are conducting an inspection of one of the components of a flight-control system, the company said.

The supplier recently flagged a potential manufacturing defect with the piece, Virgin said. It is unclear whether the defect is present in Virgin’s system and what repairs, if any, would be required, the company said.

Federal aviation authorities earlier this month grounded Virgin flights while it investigates issues with Virgin’s July flight that carried founder Richard Branson and five crewmates to suborbital space.

Virgin said Friday the problem with the part is unrelated with that earlier flight and the FAA investigation, “which is focused on air traffic control clearance and communications.”

The earliest the company expects to open its flight window for Unity 23 is mid-October, Virgin said. Updates and a specific flight window will come once the inspection is complete, the company said.

“We have a robust pre-flight readiness approach that is rooted in our thorough, proactive and safety-first culture,” Chief Executive Michael Colglazier said in a statement. “Our test flight processes and procedures are rigorous and structured to identify and resolve these types of issues. We look forward to taking to the skies again soon.”

Shares of Virgin Galactic have gained 6% this year, compared with an advance of around 19% for the S&P 500 index SPX, -0.77%.