The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) grounded billionaire Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic space company today (Friday), in the context of an investigation into whether during the first manned flight of a private company to the edge of space two months ago, a malfunction was due to cancel Flight.
The New Yorker revealed that a federal agency investigation revealed that on the historic flight of the Unity-22 spacecraft on July 11, which had two pilots and four passengers, including Branson himself, warning lights in yellow and red that indicated a “change in trajectory” were lit. According to the publication, the lights warned that the spacecraft was not rising vertically enough so that it could glide back with enough momentum for landing.
Although the procedures state that in such a case the flight should be stopped, it was decided to continue it as usual, and the crew reached an altitude of 88 km. However, during the landing, the Unity-22 left its airspace and as a result the investigation was opened.
Virgin Galactic claimed in response to the publication that the pilots followed the instructions and that no one on the spacecraft was in danger, but clarified that “we take this seriously and address the reasons for this issue to prevent it from happening again in future missions.”
However, the Aviation Administration decided to ground the company until the end of the investigation, and it is not clear if and when the second manned flight that was supposed to take place at the end of next month will take place. “The company will not return the spacecraft to flight until the agency approves the investigation report or determines that the issues related to the malfunction do not affect public safety,” the agency said.