FAA Clears Virgin Galactic to Fly Again

Virgin Galactic has been cleared by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to fly FAA-licensed spaceflights following the conclusion of an inquiry that focused on air traffic control clearance and real-time mission notification related to the Unity 22 flight in July.

The FAA advised Virgin Galactic that the corrective actions proposed by the company have been accepted and conclude the FAA inquiry, which began August 11, 2021. They include updated calculations to expand the protected airspace for future flights. Designating a larger area will ensure that Virgin Galactic has ample protected airspace for a range of possible flight trajectories during spaceflight missions. Besides, updates to the company’s flight procedures will ensure real-time mission notifications to FAA Air Traffic Control.

Michael Colglazier, chief executive officer of Virgin Galactic, said in a press release, “Our entire approach to spaceflight is guided by a fundamental commitment to safety at every level, including our spaceflight system and our test flight program. We appreciate the FAA’s thorough review of this inquiry. Our test flight program is specifically designed to continually improve our processes and procedures. 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 continues to focus on its pre-flight readiness for Unity 23. In July, VSS Unity successfully reached space, completing the company’s fourth rocket-powered spaceflight. It was the 22nd test flight of VSS Unity overall and the first test flight with a full crew in the cabin, including the Virgin Group’s founder, Sir Richard Branson.

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