The Federal Aviation Administration officially grounded all Virgin Galactic flights indefinitely. The flight ban will continue until the completion of an ongoing investigation of the company's July 11 crewed flight, according to an initial report from CNBC.
"Virgin Galactic may not return the SpaceShipTwo vehicle to flight until the FAA approves the final mishap investigation report or determines the issues related to the mishap do not affect public safety," read the FAA statement, in the report.
Looks like Richard Branson's "red light" issue may be more serious than initially thought.
Virgin Galactic responds to FAA's new ruling
A Virgin Galactic spokesperson responded to Interesting Engineering shortly after our initial reporting went live. "We are working in partnership with the FAA to address the short time that the spaceship dropped below its permitted altitude during the Unity 22 flight," they began. "We take this seriously and are currently addressing the causes of the issue and determining how to prevent this from occurring on future missions. Although the flight’s ultimate trajectory deviated from our initial plan, it was a controlled and intentional flight path that allowed Unity 22 to successfully reach space and land safely at our Spaceport in New Mexico."
While admitting that Branson's flight on Unity 22 did deviate from the flight path, Virgin Galactic emphasized that no one was ever in any danger. "At no time were passengers and crew put in any danger as a result of this change in trajectory, and at no time did the ship travel above any population centers or cause a hazard to the public," added the spokesperson. "FAA representatives were present in our control room during the flight and in post-flight debriefs. We have been working closely with the FAA to support a thorough review and timely resolution of this issue."