British-American spaceflight company Virgin Galactic has cleared the final hurdle in its quest to launch customers into space as the United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approved the Richard Branson-owned firm for space flights.
While the original plan by the aerospace company was to carry Richard Branson to space on a test flight later this year, the firm is now pushing for three more space test flights, with one planned for this summer. Virgin Galactic is expected to carry paying customers to space from next year.
Blue Origin, the Virgin Galactic competition owned by Amazon founder Mr. Jeff Bezos is also planning for a flight to space on July 20 from Texas, USA with Mr. Bezos onboard.
While there seems to be a friendly race between the two competitors on who flies to space first, Virgin spokeswoman Valerija Cymbal squashed any such notions by stating that “I appreciate that there is a lot of speculation” over whether Branson will try to beat Bezos into space. But we don’t have any announcements about Virgin Galactic’s future flight plans at this time.”
The firm gained the crucial FAA clearance after the firm managed to have a successful third flight to space in May, reaching an altitude of 55 miles (89 kilometers).
“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,” Virgin Galactic CEO Mr. Michael Colglazier, said in a statement.
While more than 600 early reservations were made at $250,000, prices for a seat on the Virgin Galactic are expected to rise much higher as the firm opens up the slots for flights again.