Virgin Galactic spaceflight delayed due to coronavirus surge

Richard Branson will have to wait even longer before he hitches a ride to suborbital space.

Amanda Kooser
Freelance writer Amanda C. Kooser covers gadgets and tech news with a twist for CNET. When not wallowing in weird gear and iPad apps for cats, she can be found tinkering with her 1956 DeSoto.
Amanda Kooser
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Virgin Galactic will delay its next space flight after New Mexico implemented new coronavirus restrictions.

Virgin Galactic

Virgin Galactic wants to take tourists on a journey to skim space. Those dreams have already been delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic, and now new COVID-19 restrictions in New Mexico have pushed back a key test flight planned for this month.

The company had been gearing up for what would be the first spaceflight from New Mexico. The state is home to Virgin Galactic's Spaceport America, its base of operations for carrying passengers off this rock. As COVID-19 cases surge across the US, New Mexico issued new restrictions on nonessential businesses starting Monday. 

"In consultation with government officials, and as a result of these new operations restrictions, the space flight that was planned to occur between Nov. 19-23, 2020 will be rescheduled," Virgin Galactic said in a statement Monday.

The state's emergency public health order calls for nonessential businesses to "reduce in-person operations by 100%." Virgin Galactic CEO Michael Colglazier said the company "will be minimizing our New Mexico operations to the greatest degree possible."

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The VSS Unity rocket-powered plane was scheduled to carry two pilots and some research payloads into suborbital space, building on previous test flights that earned the crew commercial astronaut wings from the FAA.

Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson had hoped to be a passenger on the company's space plane this year, but already acknowledged that won't be happening until at least early 2021. Critical test flights will need to be completed before Branson and paying tourists (who are spending $250,000 for a seat) get on board. Space will just have to wait.