Virgin Galactic shares climb as FAA indicates next spaceflight test set for Saturday

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Virgin Galactic pilots walk to the company’s SpaceShipTwo Unity spacecraft, attached to the jet carrier aircraft Eve.

Virgin Galactic

Shares of Virgin Galactic climbed as a notice from the Federal Aviation Administration indicated that the company’s next spaceflight test is on track to launch as early as Saturday.

An FAA notice posted on Thursday said that airspace around Virgin Galactic’s base of operations at Spaceport America in New Mexico would be restricted for space operations from Saturday at 9 a.m. ET through Sunday at 6 p.m. ET.

A Virgin Galactic spokesperson confirmed to CNBC that the company is “making good progress through our flight preparations,” noting that the flight attempt is pending weather and technical readiness.

Virgin Galactic’s stock climbed as much as 9% in trading from its previous close of $52.39 a share.

The spaceflight test will be a redo of the December attempt the company aborted mid-launch. Virgin Galactic spent two months analyzing the cause of the abort and carrying out ground testing, with the test flight set to check “the remedial work that has been completed.”

While only two pilots will be on board, the flight is expected to be the first of three in a series as the company seeks to finish development of its spacecraft system.

Virgin Galactic will be aiming for each of the original objectives of the December flight attempt, “including evaluating elements of the customer cabin, testing the live stream capability from the spaceship to the ground, and assessing the upgraded horizontal stabilizers and flight controls during the boost phase of the flight,” the company said.

After the flight test, Virgin Galactic said it will “complete an extensive data review” to “inform the next steps in the test flight program.”

The stock has more than doubled since the beginning of 2021, a move which earlier this week caused UBS to lower its rating on the stock to neutral. UBS said in a note to clients that “we’re mindful of valuation that appears full,” even though upcoming test flights create an appealing “catalyst chain.”

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