Virgin Galactic has made headlines over the last few years as it pursues the ambitious goal of bringing civilians on paid excursions into space. The company recently announced that it received its operator license from the US Federal Aviation Administration’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation (FAA-AST). The license was granted after officials examined the designs of the ship for safety and viability. Virgin Galactic views the acquisition of a license as a significant milestone in their long journey.
This news comes about two years after the company’s earlier model, the SpaceShip Two, was destroyed during a test flight in October 2014. Despite a crew fatality in the 2014 accident, the Virgin Galactic team has continued their efforts to create a stable and safe vehicle for their space touring program. They are currently working on a new model called the VSS Unity, which was named by Stephen Hawking. The current model is also the first one built by The Spaceship Company, which is Virgin Galactic’s own manufacturing branch.
While the company announced that their new ship was nearing completion in February 2016, they also plan to conduct many more tests as they move forward with the project. The company mentioned that they already have dozens of customers who have expressed interest in being on the first commercial flights when they are available. However, Virgin Galactic does not plan to rush development and will be conducting a series of rigorous trials in the months ahead.