FAA warrants investigation into launch of Virgin Galactic Branson spacecraft

“Virgin Galactic may not return the SpaceShipTwo vehicle to flight until the FAA approves the final incident investigation report or determines that the issues related to the incident do not affect public safety,” the FAA said in a statement to CNBC. The Federal Aviation Administration grounded Virgin Galactic on Thursday, as the federal regulator investigates the company’s previous space flight that carried founder Richard Branson.

“The FAA is responsible for protecting the public during commercial space transportation launch and reentry operations. The FAA is overseeing Virgin Galactic’s investigation into its July 11 SpaceShipTwo incident that occurred over Spaceport America, New Mexico. SpaceShipTwo deviated from its air traffic control clearance when it returned to Spaceport America, ”added the regulator. Galactic Virgo

Sir Richard Branson, left, in space alongside mission specialists Sirisha Bandla and Beth Moses on July 11, 2021. Branson’s space flight was not as flawless as it seemed to viewers of the live broadcast by Virgin Galactic. During the ascent, as the VSS Unity spacecraft’s rocket motor was firing, a warning light illuminated due to the vehicle moving off course.

July 11 incident Shares of Virgin Galactic, which rose 5% earlier in trading, turned negative and fell 3% after the FAA announced it would close at $ 25.99.

The New Yorker first reported on the issue that arose during Branson’s trip to space. The report highlighted concerns about Virgin Galactic’s technology and safety culture, highlighted by the recent departure of flight test director Mark “Forger” Stucky – who was reportedly fired during a video call to the aftermath. of Branson’s space flight. The New Yorker pointed out that Stucky has repeatedly issued internal warnings at Virgin Galactic regarding the safety of the company’s flight tests. The FAA confirmed in a statement to CNBC on Wednesday that the warning light was due to the spacecraft “deviating from its air traffic control clearance” and flying outside its designated airspace for 1 minute and 41 seconds.

Virgin Galactic confirmed that VSS Unity flew outside of its FAA protected airspace, but said that “dispatcher representatives were present in our control room during the flight and during post-flight debriefings.” “At no time were the passengers and crew endangered by this change of course,” Virgin Galactic said. He said the track of the VSS Unity had been deviated from its track by “high altitude winds”, but that “our pilots responded appropriately.” Virgin Galactic, in a statement to CNBC Wednesday, disputed “the misleading characterizations and conclusions of the New Yorker article.”

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