RICHARD Branson is one step closer to lift-off after Virgin Galactic secured its space travel license.
The billionaire entrepreneur’s company has received an operating licence for its space tourism rocket from the US Federal Aviation Administration.
It’s a significant win for Branson, who has spent more than a decade working on his dream of launching commercial space flights.
The journey has been marred by setbacks, including the disastrous 2014 crash of Virgin Galactic’s VSS Enterprise, which killed co-pilot Michael Alsbury. Mr Alsbury prematurely unlocked a key system in what was the company’s fourth rocket-powered test flight.
Virgin Galactic says the operating licence awarded by the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation will ultimately permit commercial operations.
It is hoped that the new VSS Unity, also known as SpaceShipTwo, will get off the ground next year.
The company on Monday said the licensing process involved a review of the system’s design, safety analysis and flight trajectory analysis.
The first taxi test of the new spacecraft took place on Monday morning at the Mojave, California, airport.
The taxi test evaluated and calibrated navigation and communications telemetry systems as it was pulled by a sports utility vehicle.