Virgin Galactic Secures Permit For Sub-Orbital Tests

By  //  March 4, 2013

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Reaching For The Stars

Virgin Galactic has received permission from the FAA to begin sub-orbital testing of its SpaceShipTwo spacecraft. (Image courtesy Virgin Galactic)

(VIDEO: Flightglobal)

BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA –On the heels of commercial space firm Space X’s mission to the International Space Station, another commercial spaceflight company is gearing up to begin sub-orbital flights.

The Federal Aviation Administration has given a permit to another commercial space company, Virgin Galactic, to begin testing of its SpaceShip Two, a six-passenger spacecraft.

“This important milestone enables our team to progress to the rocket-powered phase of test flight, bringing  us a major step closer to bringing our customers into space,” said George Whitesides, president and CEO of Virgin Galactic. “We thank the FAA for their timely issuance of this permit and for their responsible oversight of the test program.”


SpaceShipTwo is manufactured by Scaled Composites of California, a subsidiary of Northrup Grumman Corporation.

Virgin Galactic is owned by British entrepreneur Richard Branson.

Branson hired SpaceShipOne designer Burt Rutan to create a fleet of spaceships for commercial use.

Richard Branson is the founder of Virgin Galactic. (Image courtesy Virgin Galactic)

The six-passenger, two-pilot SpaceShipTwo craft is a newer version of Rutan’s SpaceShipOne concept. It became the first privately built and privately funded spacecraft to reach space in 2004.

The original SpaceShipOne made three suborbital flights and is now on display at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum in Washington.


Like SpaceShipOne, Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo will be flown into the air beneath a carrier jet and released.

Once separated from the carrier aircraft, the spaceship’s rocket engines will fire to blast it into orbit.

SpaceShipTwo has completed 16 free flight tests and a date for the launch of Virgin Galactic’s commercial spaceflights will be set later in the year.

The flights will not be launched from Cape Canaveral or Kennedy Space Center here, but instead take off from the SpaceportAmerica facility near the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.

The FAA permit is good through the end of May for Virgin Galactic to launch sub-orbital rocket-powered flights.