New Virgin Galactic PR Approach Already Sunk

 Sir Richard Branson and daughter, Holly, look through the window of a SpaceShipTwo shell. (Photo credit: Mark Greenberg/Virgin Galactic)
Sir Richard Branson and daughter, Holly, look through the window of a SpaceShipTwo shell. (Photo credit: Mark Greenberg/Virgin Galactic)

Virgin Galactic’s new public relations strategy has been torpedoed less than two weeks after it was publicly rolled out.

On March 31, NBC New’s Alan Boyle wrote about the company’s new approach to managing expectations:

“…there’s one lesson they’re willing to share: Don’t say too much about what you’re planning to do before you do it.

Before the accident, company founder Richard Branson issued statements saying SpaceShipTwo would fly paying passengers to the edge of space within one to three years — whether that translated into 2007, or 2008, 2012, 2013, 2014 or 2015.

“Sometimes people misinterpreted those as firm dates or promises,” said Will Pomerantz, Virgin Galactic’s vice president for projects, “so we don’t want to repeat that mistake.”

It seems like the boss didn’t get the memo about the new strategy. Following a visit to Mojave on Thursday, Branson issued yet another prediction.

“There is going to be about a one-year delay,” he told Bloomberg Television, adding the team was working “day and night” on the next SpaceShipTwo.

A year’s delay from what point was not clear. If it’s from the time of the accident last Oct. 31, that would put the first commercial flight toward the end of the first quarter of 2016. Prior to the crash, Branson was predicting that first flight in the first quarter of this year.

The new timeline doesn’t appear to be very credible. Following the loss of SpaceShipTwo, officials had predicted they would have the second spacecraft completed within about six months. With that deadline now approaching, they are now talking about having the new SpaceShipTwo ready for ground tests by the end of the year.