The FAA has upgraded Virgin Galactic’s Commercial Space Transportation Operator License, allowing the carrier to become the first “spaceline,” flying passengers into space.
The award puts the Virgin Galactic on track to operate its first crewed test flight this summer. The company also announced that it has completed an extensive review of data gathered from its May 22 test flight and confirmed that the flight performed well against all flight objectives.
The adjustment to Virgin Galactic’s operator’s license, which it has held since 2016, demonstrates that the company has met the verification and validation criteria required by the FAA. The award marks the first time the FAA has licensed a carrier to fly customers into space.
“Results demonstrate safety and elegance of flight system”
Michael Colglazier, Chief Executive Officer of Virgin Galactic, said, “We’re incredibly pleased with the results of our most recent test flight, which achieved our stated flight test objectives. The flight performed flawlessly, and the results demonstrate the safety and elegance of our flight system. Today’s approval by the FAA of our full commercial launch license, in conjunction with the success of our May 22 test flight, give us confidence as we proceed toward our first fully crewed test flight this summer.”
The May 22 test flight of VMS Eve and VSS Unity was the Company’s third crewed spaceflight and the first-ever spaceflight from Spaceport America, New Mexico. The flight achieved a speed of Mach 3 and reached space at an altitude of 55.5 miles. After an extensive review of the data collected during the flight, the Company confirmed that the rocket-powered test of the spaceship’s upgraded horizontal stabilizers and flight controls demonstrated strong performance, in line with predictions. The enhanced systems, which allow for finer pilot control, will also be deployed in future spaceships in the Company’s fleet.
The cabin environment data was in line with predictions and the flight successfully carried three revenue-generating research experiments that tested and demonstrated technologies in microgravity as part of NASA’s Flight Opportunities Program. The pilots flew VSS Unity on a specific trajectory designed to meet the objectives of these research experiments.
With the data analysis from the May flight now complete, Virgin Galactic will continue preparing for the remaining three test flights.