The carrier aircraft VMS Eve will take off on July 11, 2021 with the spacecraft VSS Unity from Spaceport America in New Mexico.
The Federal Aviation Administration gave Virgin Galactic permission to return to flight Wednesday after completing a breakdown investigation of the space flight carrying Sir Richard Branson.
Regulators ceased operations for the space tourism company earlier this month after the FAA learned that the company’s spacecraft had gone off course during the July 11 mission.
“The investigation found that the Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo vehicle deviated from its assigned airspace while descending from space,” the FAA said in a statement, adding that “Virgin Galactic did not report the deviation as required.”
Virgin Galactic has made “necessary changes” to its communications during space operations, the FAA noted. The company said it had updated its calculations “to expand protected airspace” on future missions, as well as taking “additional steps” to allow the FAA to receive “real-time mission notifications”.
Virgin Galactic’s shares rose up to 10% in after-hours trading from their closing price of $ 22.56.
“We appreciate the FAA’s thorough review of this request. Our flight test program is specifically designed to continuously improve our processes and procedures. The updates to our airspace and real-time mission notification logs will strengthen our preparations as we near commercial launch. “Our space experience,” said Michael Colglazier, CEO of Virgin Galactic, in a press release.
Branson’s space flight was not as flawless as it was felt by viewers of the live broadcast on Virgin Galactic. During the ascent, while the rocket motor of the VSS Unity spacecraft was igniting, a warning light came on because the vehicle was deviated from its flight path.
The New Yorker first reported on the problem that arose during Branson’s space trip. The report highlighted concerns about Virgin Galactic’s technology and safety culture, highlighted by the recent departure of flight test director Mark “Forger” Stucky – who was reportedly fired after a video call after Branson’s space flight. The New Yorker emphasized that Stucky had repeatedly warned internally at Virgin Galactic about the safety of the company’s flight tests.
Virgin Galactic was planning its next space test, called Unity 23, in late September through early October, and carried six people on board – two pilots and four passengers – on a mission for the Italian Air Force. The company has yet to announce a launch date for Unity 23 and says that space flight this month would not take place until mid-October at the earliest, based on FAA investigations.
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