The Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) has approved Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic resumption of its flying status.
The hold up was due to a review of Virgin Galactic’s most recent SpaceShipTwo flight which deviated from its agreed flight plan on July 11th. There were 6 people on board including Branson and the flight reached an altitude of 80 kms.
Virgin Galactic was in hot water insofar as it reportedly failed to tell the FAA of the flight’s deviation.
“The FAA required Virgin Galactic to implement changes on how it communicates to the FAA during flight operations to keep the public safe,” the FAA stated in its approval ruling. “Virgin Galactic has made the required changes and can return to flight operations.”
Virgin Galactic says that in future it would make any changes to its flight procedures and ensure real-time notifications to the FAA.
“We appreciate the FAA’s thorough review of this inquiry,” Michael Colglazier, Virgin Galactic’s CEO. “The updates to our airspace and real-time mission notification protocols will strengthen our preparations as we move closer to the commercial launch of our spaceflight experience.”
Virgin Galactic is expected to make its next flight, a research journey for the Italian Air Force, around mid-October.
Virgin Galactic will then undertake extensive maintenance on the rocket-ship and carrier aircraft. It has said that commercial flights will not resume until Q3 next year.