FAA Agreement Clears Route For SpaceShipTwo
Virgin Galactic, the privately funded space company owned by Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group and Abu Dhabi’s aabar Investments PJS, and Spaceport America announced that they have signed a joint agreement with the Federal Aviation Administration that helps clear the path for commercial flights of SpaceShipTwo. The agreement sets out the parameters for how routine space missions launched from Spaceport America will be integrated into the National Airspace System. Specifically, the agreement spells out how the FAA’s Albuquerque Air Route Traffic Control Center and the New Mexico Spaceport Authority (NMSA) will work with Virgin Galactic to smoothly and safely provide clear airspace for SpaceShipTwo.
The agreement provides procedures for the integration of commercial, licensed space launch operations into the National Airspace System from Spaceport America. The NMSA also has an agreement in place with the US Army’s White Sands Missile Range (WSMR) to support space launch activities within WSMR airspace. In addition, Virgin Galactic now has agreements in place with Edwards Air Force Base and the FAA’s Joshua Control Facility to cover spaceflights in California. As a whole, these agreements provide coverage for the company’s airspace needs through the remainder of the test flight program in California and into commercial service in New Mexico. Last year, Virgin Galactic began paying rent on a 20-year lease to conduct space missions from the 110,000-square-foot “Gateway to Space” building at Spaceport America.