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Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson at the New York Stock Exchange in 2019. Photo: Drew Angerer via Getty Images

Virgin Galactic got federal approval to carry passengers on future spaceflights — one of the final hurdles for Richard Branson's company to launch tourists into space.

The backdrop: There's a who-can-get-to-space-first battle brewing between Branson and fellow billionaire Jeff Bezos.

  • Virgin Galactic has roughly 600 reservations for future flights, with tickets for as much as $250,000 a pop, CNBC reports.

But, but, but: The clearance isn’t a signoff on the safety of the space plane.

  • For now, Congress has blocked the Federal Aviation Administration "from regulating the safety of the crew or space flight participants," the agency said.

Shares of Virgin Galactic closed up 39% — its biggest one-day gain since it went public in 2019.

Go deeper

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
Updated Sep 15, 2021 - Science

Inspiration4 launch: SpaceX to send 1st all-civilian crew into orbit

Photo: Inspiration4/John Kraus

The Inspiration4 crew is set to launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on Wednesday evening. The first all-civilian flight to orbit will act as a proof of concept for SpaceX and the broader private spaceflight industry, which wants to send many more people to space in the coming years and decades.

The latest: SpaceX has completed fueling the Falcon 9 rocket. The launch, streamed live via SpaceX, remains on schedule for liftoff at 8:02 p.m. ET.

Updated 1 hour ago - Science

Nor'easter slams East Coast with flooding rain and powerful winds

A residential area in Middlesex County as floodwater from the nor'easter covers streets in New Jersey on Tuesday. Photo: Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

A monster storm was slamming the Northeast with record rainfall and powerful winds over Tuesday night — causing flash flooding that resulted in people having to be rescued in New Jersey and New York roads to close.

Threat level: All of southern New England westward to New York City and northern New Jersey was under the threat of flash flooding and coastal flooding from the nor'easter through Tuesday night into early Wednesday, per the National Weather Service.

1 hour ago - World

Blinken speaks with Sudan prime minister after his release

Sudan's Prime Minister Abdallah Hamdok. Photo: Ebrahim Hamid/AFP via Getty Images

Secretary of State Tony Blinken spoke on the phone on Tuesday evening with Sudan’s Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok after the military released him from custody.

Why it matters: Hamdok’s release was a result of pressure on Sudan’s military leader General Abdul Fattah al-Burhan from the U.S. and other countries but also from the different political parties in Sudan and massive protests in the streets.