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FAA grounds Virgin Galactic space flights due to July mishap investigation

Image: SpaceShipTwo returning (REUTERS/Gene Blevins)

Edinburgh, 3 September, 2021. – The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) barred Virgin Galactic from flying SpaceShipTwo until the final mishap investigation from its July flight is over, Reuters reports. The FAA is investigating a deviation in the descent of the Virgin Galactic space plane to determine the issues would not affect public safety. Virgin Galactic rocket plane carried Richard Branson to space on 11th July.

The FAA is responsible for protecting people during commercial space transportation launch and re-entry. They said “SpaceShipTwo deviated from its Air Traffic Control clearance as it returned to Spaceport America”. Virgin Galactic said they were doing their own investigation as well to try to avoid the anomaly happening in the future again.

The company added the deviation in the Unity 22 flight was controlled and intentional and passengers and crew were not in any danger. Earlier, the space tourism firm acknowledged going off-course, dipping below the intended airspace for one minute 41 seconds. Virgin Galactic is working closely with the FAA to support a thorough investigation and a prompt resolution of the matter.

The company said it was planning another SpaceShipTwo flight in late September or early October to carry its first commercial research. This might have to wait though, as the FAA did not say when their flights may resume. Sir Richard Branson’s plans to begin commercial operations next year might have to be delayed as well.

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