Virgin Galactic said on Wednesday that the Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) had approved it for spaceflight after investigating a safety “crash” related to its high-profile mission in July involving company founder Richard Branson.
The FAA told the company that it has accepted its proposed corrective actions related to the flight, which dropped the SpaceShipTwo vehicle below its designated airspace while landing back on its runway at Spaceport America in New Mexico.
Virgin Galactic will update its calculations for future flights requesting more airspace, and promise real-time communication with the FAA during flight operations, the company said.
“Our overall approach to spaceflight is guided by a fundamental commitment to safety at every level, including our spaceflight systems and our test flight program,” CEO Michael Colglazier said in a statement.
“We appreciate the FAA’s thorough review of this investigation. Our test flight program is specifically designed to continually improve our procedures and procedures.”
The FAA grounded Virgin Galactic earlier this month after an investigative report in The New Yorker said there were flight irregularities that could have jeopardized the mission.
The article stated that pilots encountered cockpit warnings indicating that the rocket-propelled spacecraft’s climb was too shallow and the nose was insufficiently steep.
This could mean that, after taking its crew to the edge of space, it would lack enough energy to return to its runway on Earth.
In the end, the ship landed on the runway, but it fell below the height it should have been.
An FAA statement confirmed that it has closed its “crash investigation.”
“The FAA also found that Virgin Galactic failed to communicate the deviation to the FAA as required,” the statement said, a line that only made the agency aware of the irregularity via the article in The New Yorker.
Virgin Galactic is planning its next test flight with members of the Italian Air Force in mid-October.
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