Sir Richard Branson’s SpaceShipTwo prototype suborbital plane has been issued with an FAA licence to carry out further test flights. The decision follows a catastrophic accident back in October 2014 that killed its co-pilot.
Scaled Composites, which built SpaceShipTwo for Virgin Galactic, held an FAA ‘experimental permit’ for its test flights.
Virgin Galactic spokeswoman Michelle Mendiola commented: “Ultimately, licences — which require providing more data and more insight to the FAA in order to obtain — are required for a company to conduct commercial service.”
The issue of a licence also gives Virgin Galactic the option to fly “pathfinder” payloads, although not fare-paying passengers, ahead of implementing commercial operations.
SpaceShipTwo is carried aloft underneath the belly of a larger aircraft WhiteKnightTwo. Branson’s Virgin Galactic company has a contract in place with Jersey-based OneWeb to launch an early batch of small satellites into orbit. The initial contract calls for Virgin Galactic to place 39 satellites into space, and with an option for another 100 spacecraft.