The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) prevented Virgin Galactic from flying its SpaceShipTwo while investigating an incident report of its July mission transporting Richard Branson.
In particular, the FAA is investigating why the Virgin Galactic spacecraft deviated from its planned trajectory on its descent back to spaceport America, New Mexico. The diversion placed the spacecraft outside the air traffic control clearance area.
“Virgin Galactic cannot return the SpaceShipTwo vehicle to flight until the FAA approves the final investigation report into the incident or determines whether the issues related to the incident do not affect public safety,” the FAA said. The agency is responsible for protecting the public during the launch and re-entry of commercial space transport.
Virgin Galactic acknowledged that SpaceShipTwo entered below protected airspace for a total of one minute and 41 seconds. The company stated that high-altitude winds caused a change in the flight path and that passengers and crew were not exposed to any danger after the change in trajectory.
Coincidentally, on September 2, 2021, Virgin Galactic announced the details of its next Unity flight, a research tour for the Italian Air Force.