- Virgin Galactic receives FAA approval for full commercial launch license…
- Branson looks to beat Bezos…
- SPCE shares surge…
Virgin Galactic’s (NYSE: SPCE) shares take off after the spaceflight company received the green light to fly passengers in space.
The company announced today it’s received full approval from the FAA for a full commercial launch license.
The stock jumped sharply on that announcement and at writing, shares were trading 34% higher.
Branson vs Bezos
Today’s news puts Virgin Galactic ahead in the race to space tourism, becoming the very first company to receive an FAA license to fly commercial customers.
Virgin Galactic said the FAA “updated the Company’s existing commercial space transportation operator license to allow the spaceline to fly customers to space.”
They also announced data from a successful May 22 test flight, which was the first flight to be launched from Spaceport America, New Mexico.
Virgin Galactic says that flight “achieved a speed of Mach 3 and reached space at an altitude of 55.5 miles.”
They said the data collected confirmed:
- The rocket-powered test of the spaceship’s upgraded horizontal stabilizers and flight controls demonstrated strong performance, in line with predictions. These enhanced systems, which allow for finer pilot control, will also be deployed in future spaceships in the Company’s fleet.
- The cabin environment data was in line with predictions.
- The flight successfully carried three revenue-generating research experiments that tested and demonstrated technologies in microgravity as part of NASA’s Flight Opportunities Program. The pilots flew VSS Unity on a specific trajectory designed to meet the objectives of these research experiments
CEO Michael Colglazier said, “We’re incredibly pleased with the results of our most recent test flight, which achieved our stated flight test objectives. The flight performed flawlessly, and the results demonstrate the safety and elegance of our flight system. Today’s approval by the FAA of our full commercial launch license, in conjunction with the success of our May 22 test flight, give us confidence as we proceed toward our first fully crewed test flight this summer.”
Virgin Galactic has not yet set a date for their first passenger flight to space but rumors have swirled about plans for founder Sir Richard Branson to visit space aboard the company’s VSS Unity SpaceShipTwo rocket plane over the July 4th weekend.
That would beat Jeff Bezos, who plans to fly aboard one of his Blue Origin rockets on July 20.
Bezos’ flight will also include his brother Mark Bezos and an unidentified passenger who won an auction for a seat on the flight in June.
Blue Origin has not received clearance from the FAA for that flight but their New Shepard rocket has flown more than a dozen successful unmanned test flights.
Colglazier told CNBC that today’s approval from the FAA will shift the company’s focus for future test flights to demonstrating “the cabin experience” of the spacecraft.
But he refused to confirm rumors of Branson’s upcoming flight, saying “I know there’s a lot of interest and speculation out there but we have not announced either the date nor the people that would be on those. We approach this very methodically, with safety as the first consideration, and when we have all those boxes checked and all the steps in place – that’s when we can move forward and announce.”
Featured image editorial credit: KVN1777 / Shutterstock.com
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