Virgin Galactic plans next test spaceflight for Oct. 22 as it nears flying founder Richard Branson

  • Virgin Galactic plans to conducts its next crewed spaceflight test on Oct. 22 from Spaceport America in New Mexico.
  • The flight will be the first of two that the space tourism company has planned to complete testing of its SpaceShipTwo spacecraft system and should have just two test pilots on board.
  • If the next two test spaceflights succeed, Virgin Galactic has said it plans to fly founder Sir Richard Branson in the first quarter of 2021.

Virgin Galactic plans to conducts its next crewed spaceflight test on Oct. 22, according to documents the company filed with the Federal Communications Commission on Tuesday.

The flight will be the first of two that the space tourism company has planned to complete testing of its SpaceShipTwo spacecraft system and should have just two test pilots on board. Virgin Galactic said last month that the second test spaceflight will then have four "mission specialists" inside the cabin. If both test flights succeed, Virgin Galactic expects to fly founder Sir Richard Branson in the first quarter of 2021 – a milestone that will mark the beginning of the company's commercial tourism service.

Shares of Virgin Galactic closed down 3.7% on Friday at $15.92 a share.

A Virgin Galactic spokesperson confirmed the filing's accuracy but noted that the Oct. 22 date marks the beginning of a flight window, so the launch may happen in the days following. Before the Oct. 22 spaceflight, Virgin Galactic said in the filing that it plans to conduct four-hour test flights of the spacecraft's carrier aircraft WhiteKnightTwo, with those flights scheduled for Oct. 1 and Oct. 7. 

Virgin Galactic's next spaceflight will be its first from the company's operating base at Spaceport America in New Mexico. It will also be Virgin Galactic's first spaceflight since February 2019, when the company launched chief astronauts trainer Beth Moses as the spacecraft's first test passenger.

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