The United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has approved Virgin Galactic flight again after an anomaly on the previous flight, WSJ reported. The agency launched the probe into the first flight of the space company’s crew after it fell below the approved trajectory.
The FAA determined that the SpaceShip Two Unity spacecraft, with founder Richard Branson and five others, deviated from the allotted airspace by one minute and 41 seconds and did not report the error as needed. However, it accepted Virgin Galactic’s proposal to expand protected airspace for a wider range of possible trajectories and to communicate with real-time air traffic control during flights.
“Updates of our airspace and real-time mission notification protocols will intensify our preparations as we approach the commercial launch of our space flight experience,” said Michael Colglazier, CEO of Virgin Galactic.
According to a report in New Yorker, pilots spotted a “red light” warning at the end of the propulsion flight, indicating that the spacecraft had veered outside its entrance sliding cone, exposing it to the danger of an emergency landing. Virgin Galactic said the deviation was due to high winds and that the spacecraft did not fly outside the lateral boundaries of the protected airspace. “At no time did the ship travel above any population center or cause danger to the public,” a spokesman said.
With the flight re-approved, Virgin Galactic could fly its next mission in mid-October, potentially with members of the Italian Air Force. After that, both the current SpaceShipTwo and its host plane WhiteKnightTwo would spend four months receiving upgrades, the company said earlier.
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