Virgin Galactic has received approval from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to carry passengers on its future commercial flights into space. The announcement came after the success of Virgin Galactic’s first powered test flight last month.
The company has also completed an extensive review of data gathered from the test flight and confirmed that the flight performed well against all flight objectives.
The adjustment of the operator’s license held by the company since 2016 marks the first time the FAA has licensed a spaceline to fly customers. It is further validation of the company’s methodical testing program, which has met the verification and validation criteria required by the FAA.
“We’re incredibly pleased with the results of our most recent test flight, which achieved our stated flight test objectives,” said Michael Colglazier, Chief Executive Officer of Virgin Galactic. “The flight performed flawlessly, and the results demonstrate the safety and elegance of our flight system. Today’s approval by the FAA of our full commercial launch license, in conjunction with the success of our May 22 test flight, give us confidence as we proceed toward our first fully crewed test flight this summer.”
The May 22 test flight of VMS Eve and VSS Unity spaceplane was the company’s third crewed spaceflight and the first-ever spaceflight from Spaceport America in New Mexico, the company’s commercial hub. The flight achieved a speed of Mach 3 (2,284 mph, 3,675 km/h) and reached space at an altitude of 55.5 miles (89 km).
During the flight, the engineers collected the data on the performance of the spaceship’s upgraded horizontal stabilizers and flight controls as well as the cabin environment to make sure they were working as predicted.
In addition, the flight successfully carried three revenue-generating research experiments that tested and demonstrated technologies in microgravity as part of NASA’s Flight Opportunities Program. The pilots flew VSS Unity on a specific trajectory designed to meet the objectives of these research experiments.
Next, Virgin Galactic will continue preparing for the remaining three test flights.