Virgin Galactic says its space mission with the Italian Air Force is delayed due to a possible manufacturing flaw

Richard Branson in space aboard a Virgin Galactic rocket plane.
Richard Branson floats in space aboard a rocket plane. Virgin Galactic
  • Virgin Galactic rescheduled a commercial research test flight over a potential manufacturing defect.
  • The possible flaw was unrelated to the FAA’s investigation of its rocket plane, the company said.
  • Virgin pushed its space mission with the Italian Air Force back to mid-October at the earliest.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Billionaire Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic said on Friday that its first commercial research mission with the Italian Air Force would be delayed because of a possible manufacturing defect.

The spaceflight company said that during groundwork, a third-party supplier flagged a potential defect in a component of the flight-control system they provided.

“At this point, it is not yet known whether the defect is present in the company’s vehicles and what, if any, repair work may be needed,” Virgin Galactic said in a statement.

The company said it’s conducting a vendor inspection, which was part of Virgin Galactic’s usual safety procedures.

The mission, named “Unity 23,” was initially slated for September or early October. It’s now been pushed to mid-October at the earliest.

Virgin said the spaceflight would carry three paying crew members from the Italian Air Force and the National Research Council to conduct research relevant to current and future spaceflight systems and technologies.

The Federal Aviation Authority was investigating the rocket ship that Branson took to the edge of space on July 11 – called Unity 22 – saying it went outside its clearance zone while returning. Shares in Virgin Galactic tumbled 7% after the FAA’s announcement earlier this month.

The FAA investigation wasn’t related to the now-delayed space mission, Virgin said.

“Our test flight processes and procedures are rigorous and structured to identify and resolve these types of issues,” Michael Colglazier, Virgin Galactic’s CEO, said in a statement. “We look forward to taking to the skies again soon.”