Sep 29, 2021 - Science

FAA clears Virgin Galactic to return to flight following probe

Mobile screen tracking a rocket launch, with a virgin logo in the background
Photo: Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The Federal Aviation Administration has cleared Virgin Galactic to return to spaceflight operations after concluding an investigation into the company's July trip to suborbital space, Virgin Galactic said in a statement Wednesday.

Why it matters: The high-profile flight, carrying billionaire Richard Branson, was seen as a step forward for the company to begin commercial services in the near future.

  • The good news caused Virgin Galactic shares to rise more than 9%, per MarketWatch.

Catch up quick: Virgin Galactic's space plane was grounded earlier this month after the FAA learned that the plane veered off course and flew outside its designated airspace during the flight. The probe investigated whether the issues at hand could affect public safety.

  • The FAA also found that Virgin Galactic hadn't communicated the deviation as required, it said in a statement Wednesday.

The big picture: The FAA noted that Virgin Galactic has made the "required changes" in how it communicates with the FAA during flights.

  • Virgin Galactic added that it has accepted updated calculations “to expand the protected airspace” during future flights.
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