Virgin Galactic delays spaceflight test to May

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FILE – In this May 29, 2018 photo provided by Virgin Galactic, the VSS Unity craft flies during a supersonic flight test. Virgin Galactic has received nearly 8,000 online reservations of interest since its first successful test flight into space 14 months ago, the company said Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020, as it nears commercial operation and prepares to reopen ticket sales. (Virgin Galactic via AP, File)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — Spaceflight company Virgin Galactic has postponed its next mission to space from New Mexico until at least May after a December test flight was aborted due to computer malfunction.

An investigation by the company found that electromagnetic interference caused the spaceship’s onboard computer to reboot during the December flight, the Albuquerque Journal reported Thursday. That triggered a safety mechanism that shut down the engine and forced the VSS Unity’s two pilots to abort the mission and glide back to Earth.

Virgin Galactic is now testing and installing new components to prevent electromagnetic interference before they attempt another test flight, CEO Michael Colglazier said during a Thursday earnings call with investors.

The company was created by Virgin Group founder Richard Branson. Its chairman is venture capitalist Chamath Palihapitiya.

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