Space travel came a step closer to reality as Virgin Galactic, the world’s first commercial spaceline, reports that its vehicle developer, Scaled Composites (Scaled), has been granted an experimental launch permit from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The FAA approval is for Virgin's suborbital spacecraft, SpaceshipTwo, and the carrier aircraft, WhiteKnightTwo.
“This important milestone enables our team to progress to the rocket-powered phase of test flight, bringing us a major step closer to bringing our customers to space,” said George Whitesides, president and CEO of Virgin Galactic. “We thank the FAA for their timely issuance of this permit, and for their responsible oversight of the test program.”
SpaceShipTwo and WhiteKnightTwo have made significant progress in their flight test program, Virgin Galactic says. With 80 test flights completed, WhiteKnightTwo is substantially through its test plan, while the more recently constructed SpaceShipTwo has safely completed sixteen free flights, including three that tested the vehicle’s unique “feathering” re-entry system.
The FAA permit, Scaled said, allows Virgin to press towards rocket-powered test flights. Scaled expects to begin rocket powered, supersonic flights toward the end of the year.
“The Spaceship program is making steady progress, and we are all looking forward to lighting the vehicle’s rocket engine in flight for the first time,” said Doug Shane, president of Scaled.