Virgin Galactic falls 17% after aborting key flight test as rocket engine fails to ignite

Reuters

  • Shares of Virgin Galactic tumbled as much as 17% to $26 in Monday premarket trading after a test flight over the weekend failed to reach outer space due to rocket engine ignition issues.
  • “Virgin Galactic is now conducting post flight analysis and can so far report that the onboard computer which monitors the propulsion system lost connection, triggering a fail-safe scenario that intentionally halted ignition of the rocket motor,” the company said in a statement.
  • Test pilots flew back to the Spaceport America launch site in New Mexico and landed safely. It’s unclear when Virgin Galactic’s next test flight will be. 
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Shares of Virgin Galactic tumbled as much as 17% in Monday premarket trading after its first manned test flight on Saturday failed to reach outer space as planned. The rocket motor that is supposed to propel the craft into space failed to ignite, causing the test pilots to fly back to the Spaceport America launch site in New Mexico and land safely.

“During the test flight, the rocket motor did not fire due to the ignition sequence not completing,” the company said in a Monday statement. “Virgin Galactic is now conducting post flight analysis and can so far report that the onboard computer which monitors the propulsion system lost connection, triggering a fail-safe scenario that intentionally halted ignition of the rocket motor. ” 

Shares slumped to as low as $26 in pre-trading hours after closing at $32 on Friday. The stock has been climbing steadily since the beginning of November and hit its highest level since late February last Monday, when the company signaled the critical test flight was almost ready to launch. 

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It’s unclear when Virgin Galactic’s next attempt at a powered flight to space will be. 

The spaceflight company tweeted on Saturday: “As we do with every test flight, we are evaluating all the data, including the root cause assessment of the computer communication loss.  We look forward to sharing information on our next flight window in the near future.” 

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