FAA approves full commercial launch license for Virgin Galactic allowing customers in space

Space News

NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – The Federal Aviation Administration has updated Virgin Galactic’s current commercial space transportation operator license to allow the company to fly customers to space. This marks the first time the FAA has licensed a spaceline to fly customers.

Virgin Galactic reports in a press release that it has also completed a review of data from its test flight on May 22 and has confirmed the flight performed well against all objectives. The VMS Eve and VSS Unity test flight was Virgin Galactic’s third crewed spaceflight and the first from Spaceport America located in New Mexico.

Following the completion of the May flight, the company will prepare for their three remaining test flights.

The company states that the flight achieved a speed of Mach 3 and reached space at the altitude of 55.5 miles. Following a review of the flight’s data, Virgin Galactic confirmed the following:

  • A test of the spaceship’s horizontal stabilizers and flight controls reportedly demonstrated strong performance and allow for finer pilot control. The systems will be used in future spaceships in the fleet.
  • Cabin environment data was in order as predicted.
  • The flight carried three revenue-generating research experiments successfully. These experiments tested microgravity technologies as part of NASA’s Flight Opportunities Program.

KRQE spoke with the Spaceport’s executive director who said  Friday’s news is significant for New Mexico, not only for bringing in more jobs as aerospace companies continue to grow and thrive in the state. But also for tourism, which will bring in passengers and spaceport visitors from all over the world.

“This whole new market place is starting to build with people now getting involved with space, but don’t have to be an astronaut, they don’t have to work for NASA, so New Mexico is at the epicenter of that,” said Scott Mclaughlin with Spaceport. “So we’re in a place that virtually no one else in the world is.” 

There’s talk that CEO and Founder Richard Branson wants to hop on the next test flight this summer so he can beat Amazon founder Jeff Bezos into space.

At last check more than 600 people had booked flights with Virgin Galactic at a cost of $250,000 a ticket. The company also has another 8,000 people on a waiting list, but a spokesperson with Virgin Galactic said they’re still working on how much tickets will cost for them.

With Friday’s news, Virgin Galactic’s stock rose nearly 40-percent. 

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