Virgin Galactic shares rose sharply Thursday after a Federal Aviation Administration notice suggested that the company’s SpaceShipTwo Unity flight could still launch as early as Saturday.
Virgin, founded and partly owned by British entrepreneur Richard Branson, said earlier this month that a new flight window for the vessel would start Saturday. Its planned flight on Dec. 12 was ditched when the onboard computer halted ignition of the rocket motor.
The FAA announced that airspace around Virgin Galactic’s takeoff point at Spaceport America in New Mexico will be restricted for space operations from 9 a.m. ET Saturday until 6 p.m. on Sunday, CNBC reported.
A Virgin Galactic spokesperson told the network that Virgin was “making good progress through our flight preparations.”
Virgin Galactic shares traded Thursday at $56.67, up 8.17%.
“The test flight will be crewed by two pilots and will carry research payloads as part of the NASA Flight Opportunities program. Pre-flight preparations are already underway at Spaceport America, New Mexico,” Virgin said earlier this month.
Virgin said a “key objective of the upcoming flight will be to test the remedial work that has been completed” since the Dec. 12 suspension.
“The team has since conducted the root cause analysis, completed the corrective work required, and carried out extensive ground testing,” the company said. “The next stage will be to assess and verify this work during a rocket-powered flight.”
“We are pleased to be able to get back to the skies and continue our flight test program,” said Chief Executive Michael Colglazier.
Once the SpaceShipTwo Unity completes two successful flights, the plan is for Branson to travel aboard the next flight.