Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on the day's biggest business stories

Subscribe to Axios Closer for insights into the day’s business news and trends and why they matter

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Stay on top of the latest market trends

Subscribe to Axios Markets for the latest market trends and economic insights. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with Axios Sports. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Nashville news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Nashville newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Columbus news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Columbus newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Dallas news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Dallas newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sign up for Axios NW Arkansas

Stay up-to-date on the most important and interesting stories affecting NW Arkansas, authored by local reporters

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Richard Branson after flying to space aboard a Virgin Galactic vessel in July 2021. Photo: Patrick Fallon/AFP via Getty Images)

The Federal Aviation Administration said Thursday it is investigating Virgin Galactic's recent flight into suborbital space after the company's Unity space plane veered off course and flew outside its designated airspace during the flight.

The latest: FAA spokesperson Steve Kulm said Virgin Galactic's space plane is grounded and will not be able to fly again until the administration "approves the final mishap investigation report or determines the issues related to the mishap do not affect public safety."

Why it matters: The high-profile flight, which was carrying Virgin Galactic's billionaire founder Richard Branson and five other passengers, including two pilots, was seen as a step forward for the company to begin commercial services in the near future.

  • The investigation into the mission could complicate those ambitions.

Unity pilots Dave Mackay and Mike Masucci during the flight first encountered a warning that the craft was veering off course, according to a report from the New Yorker.

  • They then met an entry glide-cone warning, indicating that the vehicle was not ascending at the correct angle and may not have enough glide energy to reach its landing designation, which could force the crew to make an emergency landing elsewhere.
  • The New Yorker's report was based on interviews with multiple anonymous Virgin Galactic officials and confirmation from unnamed FAA spokespeople.

Flight data showed that the craft went outside of its mandated airspace during the mission, raising the risk of a collision with other aircraft or an emergency landing, per the New Yorker.

  • The FAA designates airspaces for each space mission to prevent collisions with general air traffic.
  • An FAA spokesperson said that the craft had “deviated from its Air Traffic Control clearance."

Multiple anonymous Virgin Galactic sources told the New Yorker that the pilots should have aborted the mission in response to the warnings. Mackay and Masucci continued flying but managed to get the craft into space and back to Earth.

What they're saying: Spokespeople for Virgin Galactic told the New Yorker that its top priority is the safety of its crew and passengers but acknowledged that the craft did veer off course and that the company did not initially notify the FAA.

  • The company described the flight as “a safe and successful test flight that adhered to our flight procedures and training protocols.”
  • "When the vehicle encountered high altitude winds which changed the trajectory, the pilots and systems monitored the trajectory to ensure it remained within mission parameters. Our pilots responded appropriately to these changing flight conditions exactly as they have been trained and in strict accordance with our established procedures," it added, per the New Yorker.

Go deeper: How the FAA keeps airplanes and rockets apart in the sky

Editor's note: This story has been updated with the FAA statement.

Go deeper

Updated Oct 13, 2021 - Science

Blue Origin launches William Shatner, 3 others to space

The crew of NS-18, Audrey Powers, William Shatner, Chris Boshuizen and Glen de Vries, with CrewMember 7 Sarah Knights. Photo Courtesy of Blue Origin.

Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin successfully flew William Shatner — Captain Kirk himself from "Star Trek" — and three other astronauts to space for its second human mission on Wednesday.

Why it matters: The launch was another step toward proving the company can safely launch people to suborbital space and bring them back to Earth.

Updated 44 mins ago - World

Reports: Up to 17 U.S. missionaries kidnapped in Haiti

Haitian soldiers guard the public prosecutor's office in Port-au-Prince earlier this month. Photo: Richard Pierrin/AFP via Getty Images

Children were among up to 17 American Christian missionaries and their relatives kidnapped by a gang in Haiti on Saturday, the New York Times first reported.

Details: The missionaries had just left an orphanage and were traveling by bus to the airport to "drop off some members" and planned to travel to another destination afterward when the gang abducted them in Port-au-Prince, Haitian security officials said, per the NYT.

Melbourne, "world's most locked-down city," to lift stay-at-home orders

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews during a news conference in Melbourne, Australia, on Sunday. Photo: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

Melbourne's stay-at-home orders will end five days earlier than planned, officials in Australia's second-biggest city announced Sunday.

Why it matters: The capital of the state of Victoria has had six lockdowns totaling 262 days since March last year. That means Melbourne's spent longer under lockdowns than "any other city in the world" during the pandemic, Reuters notes.

You’ve caught up. Now what?

Sign up for Mike Allen’s daily Axios AM and PM newsletters to get smarter, faster on the news that matters.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!