The Federal Aviation Administration said Thursday that Virgin Galactic cannot launch anyone into space again until an investigation is complete into a mishap that occurred during July’s latest flight which was with the founder Richard Branson and some other persons. “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,” the FAA said in a statement. In fact, the rocketship veered off course during its descent back to its runway in the New Mexico desert, outside the air traffic control clearance area. After flight, there was no mention of the aircraft’s deviation from its approved airspace.
Virgin Galactic insisted Thursday that Branson and everyone else on board were never in any danger. Virgin Galactic said high-altitude wind caused the change in flight path and insisted the two pilots “responded appropriately.” “We take this seriously and are currently addressing the causes of the issue and determining how to prevent this from occurring on future missions,” the company said. Previously, Virgin Galactic announced plans to launch three Italian researchers to the edge of space in a few weeks, late September or early October. Virgin Galactic is a publicly traded space tourism company that billionaire Richard Branson founded in 2004.