The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has reportedly grounded all American spaceflight company, Virgin Galactic, missions as it investigates a purported ‘mishap’ that occurred during its maiden voyage where it ferried Sir Richard Branson and a couple of other passengers to the edge of space.
According to credible sources, the FAA has taken the action as it investigates how Sir Branson's space flight deviated from its intended path during its ascent into space.
Sir Richard Branson, the British billionaire and the owner of Virgin Galactic, supposedly achieved his lifelong dream by flying his rocket jet to an altitude of 86 kilometers (~53 miles) on July 11th, 2021.
However, recently the New Yorker magazine reported that the spacecraft flew outside of its pre-agreed airspace for a period. Meanwhile, Virgin Galactic, on the other hand, has contested the New Yorker's description of the events,.
Through a brief statement, the FAA stated that it was investigating the July 11 SpaceShipTwo incident that occurred above Spaceport America, New Mexico.
The FAA further added that until it approves the final incident investigation report or ascertains that the problems associated with the mishap do not pose a threat to public safety, the SpaceShipTwo spacecraft may not return to flight.
Responding to the FAA statement, Virgin Galactic stated that it was completely cooperating with the government agency. The firm stated that it takes such concerns very seriously and was working to prevent such trajectory deviations on its future flights.
Earlier in the week, the firm also announced the specifics of the upcoming Unity flight, which would be a research mission for the Italian Air Force. This flight, which was scheduled at the end of September or the beginning of October, now has to wait for the results of the FAA investigation.
Notably, the New Yorker piece that reported the mishap was written by Nicholas Schmidle, who has published a book on Sir Richard's almost two-decade endeavor to create a rocket plane capable of transporting fare-paying passengers above Earth's atmosphere.
Source credit: https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-58421796