Virgin Galactic has received the go ahead from aviation regulators to fly passengers to space. The company announced today that the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) has updated its existing commercial space transportation operator license, which it has held since 2016. Virgin Galactic said the decision makes it the first spaceline to secure permission to fly customers.
The milestone follows a series of setbacks for the private space venture. In February, Virgin Galactic announced it was delaying space tourism flights to early 2022 following disruption to its development testing schedule, including a motor ignition failure.
According to CNBC, the company had to complete a 29 element verification and validation program for the FAA in order to upgrade its existing launch license to conduct passenger spaceflights. It cleared the final two steps with its most recent crewed spacecraft flight on May 22. The rocket-powered test saw the VSS Unity, its two pilots and NASA experiments reach space.
Today, Virgin Galactic confirmed that the spacecraft’s control systems performed in line with expectations. The company is now looking ahead to its remaining three test flights, at least one of which is expected to carry founder Richard Branson, who may yet beat Jeff Bezos to space.