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Virgin Galactic tumbles 12% after delaying Saturday’s space flight due to ‘technical checks’

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Virgin Galactic fell as much as 12% on Friday to $52.30 a share after the aerospace company halted plans to launch its test flight this weekend.

“Flight test update: We have been progressing through our pre-flight preparations and, during that process, we have decided to allow more time for technical checks. We are working to identify the next flight opportunity,” Virgin Galactic tweeted Friday morning.

Virgin Galactic, founded and partly owned by billionaire Richard Branson, excited investors Thursday with a tweet confirming that the flight test window for the SpaceShipTwo Unity would be opening this week. The stock closed up 13.4% Thursday.
Investors also noted that an FAA notice posted on Thursday said that airspace around Virgin’s launch site at Spaceport America in New Mexico would be restricted for space operations from Saturday morning through Sunday evening.

Virgin Galactic confirmed to CNBC on Thursday that the company would launch over the weekend, noting that the flight attempt was pending weather and technical readiness.

The flight will be a second attempt at Virgin’s first manned test flight after its rocket failed to reach outer space as planned in December. Shares of Virgin Galactic tumbled 17% on Dec. 14 after the rocket motor that is supposed to propel the craft into space failed to ignite, causing the test pilots to fly back to New Mexico and land safely.

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“A key objective of the upcoming flight will be to test the remedial work that has been completed since the December 12, 2020 flight when the onboard computer halted ignition of the rocket motor,” Virgin said earlier this month. “The team has since conducted the root cause analysis, completed the corrective work required, and carried out extensive ground testing. The next stage will be to assess and verify this work during a rocket-powered flight.”

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