The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on Thursday banned Virgin Galactic from flying its SpaceShipTwo until the agency approves its final accident investigation report for its July flight or determines that the problems do not affect public safety .
The FAA confirmed on Wednesday that it was investigating a descent descent from the flight of the Virgin Galactic rocket that transported British billionaire Richard Branson to the edge of space on July 11th.
The FAA, responsible for protecting the public during the launch and re-entry of commercial space transport, said that “SpaceShipTwo deviated from its air traffic control authorization upon returning to Spaceport America” in New Mexico.
“Virgin Galactic cannot return the SpaceShipTwo vehicle to flight until the FAA approves the final accident investigation report or determines whether the problems related to the accident do not affect public safety,” the agency said.
In response to the FAA statement, Virgin Galactic said it was “addressing the root causes of the problem and determining how to prevent it from occurring on future missions.”
The company added that the diversion on the July flight known as Unit 22 was “a controlled and intentional flight path that allowed Unit 22 to successfully reach space and land safely at our spaceport in New Mexico. the crew were put in danger.”
He added that he has “worked closely with the FAA to support a thorough review and timely resolution of this issue.”
Previously, Virgin Galactic said that “the flight dropped below airspace altitude … for a short distance and time (1 minute and 41 seconds).”
On Wednesday, Virgin Galactic said it was planning another SpaceShipTwo flight from New Mexico and targeting a flight window in late September or early October, while technical and weather checks are pending. That flight is expected to carry three crew members from the Italian Air Force and the National Research Council, he added.
Branson was among six Virgin Galactic employees who participated in the July flight, which flew more than 50 miles (80 km) above the New Mexico desert. He had praised the mission as a harbinger of a new era in space tourism and said the company he founded in 2004 was prepared to begin commercial operations next year.
© Thomson Reuters 2021