FAA Lifts Grounding Order On Virgin Galactic


Virgin Galactic says it’s planning its next crewed launch in mid-October after some remedial training from the FAA on the role of the push-to-talk button when flights don’t go according to plan. The agency has lifted its grounding order on the enterprise after the July publicity flight carrying founder Sir Richard Branson and other Virgin Galactic employees went outside its designated airspace on the descent as the pilots compensated for a trajectory error on the launch. Everything worked out all right but the FAA was miffed that it wasn’t told of the diversion while it was happening.

“The updates to our airspace and real-time mission notification protocols will strengthen our preparations as we move closer to the commercial launch of our spaceflight experience,” said Virgin Galactic Chief Executive Michael Colglazier. Virgin Galactic told Reuters the manual revisions specifically include steps to ensure “real-time mission notifications to FAA Air Traffic Control.” The next launch will carry three crew from the Italian air force and National Research Council.

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  1. ROFL at the PTT remark.

    First thought it was for inter-pilot comm, you mean tell FAA something went not right.

    (Recall the vehicle was headed off course and pilots were slow to catch that, fortunately did before it got so far off course it would not have been able to land on a good runway.

    I don’t recall why/when FAA was fussed, likely after landing as there was a delay in telling them of serious flight discrepancy.

    First priority for crew has to be to keep aircraft under control and on track, if unable to land on a good runway then tell ATC in hopes it can dispatch resources to the touchdown place.

  2. The original reporting on this incident said that the spacecraft deviated during ascent, not descent. I’ve yet to read anything that states specifically how much the deviation was, and whether it was vertical or horizontal.
    Also, don’t we have radar and transponders for this very reason? Why can’t ATC track the flight in real time?