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Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Virgin Galactic space plane grounded to investigate Branson’s flight

US aviation authorities will only allow travel for Virgin Galactic’s space plane after an investigation into whether the July 11 flight’s aberration threatened public safety.

The US Aviation Administration is reviewing the reasons why SpaceShipTwo flew outside the area it had designated for it during its space flight, which carried company founder Richard Branson and others, but the plane landed safely.

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In an emailed statement, the FAA said: “Virgin Galactic cannot return the SpaceShipTwo to flight until the FAA has approved the final investigation report into the disruption, or has concluded that issues with it do not affect public safety. “.

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The company said in an emailed statement that it was working with the Federal Aviation Administration to study a flight deviation that did not endanger passengers or the public. “We are taking this very seriously, are currently addressing the causes of the problem, and deciding how to prevent it from occurring on future flights… We have worked closely with the Federal Aviation Administration to support a comprehensive review and timely resolution of this issue,” she said in the statement.

Virgin Galactic shares fell 2.9% to $26.01 at the New York close on the FAA news.

Next flight
Virgin Galactic was planning its next space flight later this month or early October, and the company said in an earlier statement Thursday that it was decided that the research flight would include two members of the Italian Air Force, a flight engineer, and an employee of Virgin Galactic. Virgin declined to comment on whether the flight schedule, the company’s first commercial research mission, would be affected by the FAA’s decision.

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The Federal Aviation Administration regulates commercial spaceflight and establishes rules for protecting the public on the ground, which is not related to the flights, as well as protecting other aircraft in close proximity to launches. But Congress has prevented the administration from setting safety standards for crew members.

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The New Yorker reported Wednesday that the flight was skewed due to the spacecraft being outside its optimal landing path. A craft usually floats into the atmosphere using devices designed to maintain its stability and reduce its speed.

The company said on the same day that the vehicle, which turns into a glider immediately after entering the denser air, flew under an area designated by the Federal Aviation Administration to prevent conflict with other aircraft, adding that the vehicle remained outside the protected area for one minute and 41 seconds, before returning to the field. Protected air for the rest of the flight.

“Although the final flight path deviated from our initial plan, it was a controlled and deliberate path, allowing Unity 22 to reach space and land safely at our spaceport in New Mexico,” the company said in a statement Wednesday.

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