Virgin Galactic cleared to relaunch after FAA inquiry

Unity 23 spaceflight window opens mid-October

Virgin Galactic release over New Mexico | credit: 2021 Virgin Galactic

Virgin Galactic has been cleared to fly FAA-licenced spaceflights following the conclusion of an inquiry that focused on air traffic control clearance and real-time mission notification related to the Unity 22 flight in July.

The US Federal Aviation Administration this week informed Virgin Galactic that the corrective actions proposed by the company have been accepted and conclude the FAA inquiry, which began in early August

Those actions include;

i) providing updated calculations to expand the protected airspace for future flights. By designating a larger area Virgin Galactic will ensure it has ample protected airspace for a variety of possible flight trajectories during spaceflight missions; and
ii) Additional steps into the Company’s flight procedures to ensure real-time mission notifications to FAA Air Traffic Control.

SpaceShipTwo Unity released from VMS Eve © Virgin Galactic 2020

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Michael Colglazier, Chief Executive Officer of Virgin Galactic, said: “Our entire approach to spaceflight is guided by a fundamental commitment to safety at every level, including our spaceflight system and our test flight program.

“We appreciate the FAA’s thorough review of this inquiry. Our test flight program is specifically designed to continually improve our processes and procedures. 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.”

Now Virgin Galactic continues to focus on its pre-flight readiness for Unity 23, which has a launch window in mid-October 2021.

Meanwhile, Virgin Galactic has tapped Disney’s workforce again, recruiting Aparna Chitale as Chief People Officer. Chitale has over 20 years experience at multi-national organisations and was most recently Vice President of Human Resources at Disney Parks Experiences and Products.

Colglazier himself was employed by The Walt Disney Company for 26 years prior to joining Virgin Galactic in July 2020. His last role at Disney was President and Managing Director, Disney Parks International.

In February, Virgin Galactic also recruited Joe Rohde as Experience Architect. Rohde had been with Walt Disney Imagineering for more than 40 years.

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