Virgin Galactic gets FAA approval for space-bound passenger travel

Photo (c) John M Lund Photography Inc - Getty Images

If you want to go, you’ll have to pay a hefty price of around $250,000

Virgin Galactic’s long-term goal of taking passengers into space has just taken a big positive turn. On Friday, the company’s license for space transportation was updated by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to include passengers -- making it the first company granted permission to do so.

Now that the British-American spaceflight company has received the FAA’s blessing, it’s moving forward with test flights and data collection to keep the initiative on track. Virgin Galactic said the approval is further substantiation of the meticulous testing program it had in place -- one “which has met the verification and validation criteria required by the FAA.”

First full test flight coming soon

The company is certainly ready to get started. It said it’s already succeeded with three minimally crewed test flights -- including the first from New Mexico’s Spaceport America. It plans to launch a fully crewed test flight soon.

“We’re incredibly pleased with the results of our most recent test flight, which achieved our stated flight test objectives,” Michael Colglazier, Chief Executive Officer of Virgin Galactic, said in a statement. He noted that the flight achieved a speed of Mach 3 (2,301.81 mph) and reached an altitude of 55.5 miles.

“The flight performed flawlessly, and the results demonstrate the safety and elegance of our flight system. 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.” 

Start saving your pennies

If you’re hoping to get a ticket for one of Virgin Galactic’s flights, it’ll cost you -- about a quarter-million dollars. That boarding pass will allow you to experience weightlessness for a few minutes and see planet Earth from high above. 

In the interim, the company’s test flights are already making money. The latest flight successfully carried three revenue-generating research experiments that tested and demonstrated technologies in microgravity as part of NASA’s Flight Opportunities Program

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