The US aviation authority FAA has banned the space company Virgin Galactic from further space flights until the current investigations are completed. During the historic space flight of the British billionaire Richard Branson in July, the spaceplane deviated from its approved course and left the flight area assigned by the FAA.
The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is responsible for protecting public safety during take-off, flight and landing of commercial space flights. Since the SpaceShipTwo with Branson on board did not follow the course assigned by the air traffic control when returning to Earth, this is now being officially investigated, reports Reuters.
Short-term course deviation
The space company confirms the course deviations and blames this on strong winds at high altitudes. The pilots responded as expected and within the framework of their specifications. The spacecraft entered unauthorized airspace for only one minute and 42 seconds. Since the flight was very short overall, this is more than ten percent of the total flight time from disconnecting from the carrier aircraft to landing.
According to the FAA, Virgin Galactic is prohibited from making further flights with this spacecraft until the agency approves the course deviation or confirms that public safety was not endangered. Virgin Galactic then stated that the company is addressing the root cause of the problem and will find ways to prevent it on future missions.
The space company added that the flight “Unity 22”, on which Branson flew into space before Jeff Bezos, was controlled and proceeded on the intended course. At no time would passengers and pilots have been in danger. Support the FAA in their investigations and strive for a speedy resolution.
Consequences for the next space flight
How long it will take the FAA to conduct their investigation is uncertain, but Virgin Galactic has scheduled its next mission in late September or early October. Then the SpaceShipTwo will start with members of the Italian Air Force and the National Research Council of the USA as paying passengers. Thereafter, the spacecraft and carrier aircraft will be extensively serviced before the company plans to start regular commercial spaceflight operations in mid-2022.