FAA Approves Virgin Galactic For Commercial Passenger Spaceflights


The FAA has upgraded Virgin Galactic’s commercial space transportation operator license to allow the company to carry paying passengers to space. It has been reported that Virgin Galactic currently has over 600 reservations for its planned commercial passenger spaceflights with ticket prices running between $200,000 and $250,000. The licensing update comes after the company successfully completed its third crewed spaceflight last May.

“We’re incredibly pleased with the results of our most recent test flight, which achieved our stated flight test objectives,” said Virgin Galactic CEO Michael Colglazier. “Today’s 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.”

As previously reported by AVweb, the May flight test used the company’s VMS Eve launch platform and VSS Unity spacecraft. Unity hit a top speed of Mach 3 and reached an altitude of 55.5 miles. Three additional test flights are planned prior to the launch of commercial passenger operations.

Kate O'Connor
Kate O’Connor works as AVweb's Editor-in-Chief. She is a private pilot, certificated aircraft dispatcher, and graduate of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

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  1. “licensing update comes after the company successfully completed its third crewed spaceflight”
    “Three additional test flights are planned prior to the launch of commercial passenger operations.”
    If Cessna developed a new design aircraft, how many test flights would be required before licensing for commercial flight operations? Likely more then six? Whatever.

    • I’ve long been a critic of the cavalier attitude to space flight Branson and Musk have had, especially musk’s, but they have learned many lessons they thought they were above the hard way and didn’t rush the manned flight certification process at all from an outside point of view. I can’t say what’s going on inside, it’s possible some 737 MAX level oversights happened and I don’t know about them, but as we’ve seen over the history of flight that’s also possible for any program, commercial or otherwise, especially given the poor state of FAA oversight coupled with human error.

      Also, are you aware of the fact that this program has had many test flights, going back over a decade, not six? Are you aware of the man-rated process for spacecraft? This isn’t a surprise, nor does it seem to have happened quickly to anyone who has been following these private space ventures over the last decade and a half. This isn’t to say that the level of safety is likely as high as it is in an airliner, but that is going to be difficult if not impossible to achieve in suborbital let alone orbital space flight given the complexities and rigors of it.

      • Yes, more than a decade. SpaceShipOne started flying in ’03, but made its first manned space flight just over 17 years ago – in early June of ’04. [I was there – it was a highlight of my life.]

      • Patch and try again is not workable for long unless you are rigorous at recording requirements – design philosophy with reasons – and why you changed the design.

        Otherwise your patches will create other defects that eventually will be tripped over.

    • Indeed, it’s a strange contradiction – with FAA for example chastising Boeing for not being thorough enough with 777X development, yet it has flown quite a few times and for well over 100 hours.

      When the first death of a non-crew person occurs, the fan of public ranting will be strong and brown, stopping passenger space flights for several years.