Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic has taken another small leap in the multi-million dollar space race after US authorities gave it permission to take paying customers into space.
Its license was upgraded Friday by the US Federal Aviation Administration to allow for a full commercial launch, after a successful test flight last month.
Branson may still be aboard the first passenger flight, which according to some reports could be July 4 from the New Mexico spaceport, though the firm said it was speculation.
Three more test flights are planned after the May 22 test, where the SpaceShipTwo spacecraft reached space at an altitude of 55.5 miles and a speed of Mach 3, or more than 2,300 miles per hour.
A Virgin Galactic spokeswoman said: “As previously announced, we expect to complete final test flights this summer through early fall. [autumn]. At this time, we have not determined the date of our next flight. “
Michael Colglazier, Virgin Galactic CEO, said: “We are incredibly pleased with the results of our most recent test flight, which achieved our stated flight test objectives. The flight went smoothly and the results demonstrate the safety and elegance of our flight system.
“Today’s approval by the FAA of our full commercial launch license, coupled with the success of our test flight on May 22, gives us confidence as we move towards our first fully crewed test flight this summer.”
The FAA’s blessing came when Branson competes with two of the three richest men in the world, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos and Tesla boss Elon Musk, in the development of spaceflight. Bezos recently announced that he would be aboard the first passenger flight of the New Shepard spacecraft, built by his company Blue Origin, on July 20.
The license puts Branson within reach to finally realize the ambition of the Virgin Galactic firm he founded in 2004, which has booked numerous celebrities and super-wealthy passengers aboard eventual space flights, at about $ 200,000 (£ 14,400) a ticket.
The company has been marked by numerous setbacks, at least two fatal accidents in 2007 and 2014, in which three engineers and a test pilot were killed.
Virgin Galactic became a publicly traded company in 2019, while Branson recently sold hundreds of millions of dollars in stock to help shore up its struggling Virgin Atlantic airline as it crippled its fleets and laid off staff due to the US pandemic. Covid.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism