“May Not Return The SpaceshipTwo Vehicle To Flight Until The FAA Approves The Final Mishap Investigation Report…”
After a number of inflight issues have become public, the FAA has finally stepped in and grounded Virgin Galactic. This occurred as details about the flight that carried Richard Branson, and others, to a point short of the Karman Line ran into problems that have just recently come to light.
A New Yorker story by Nicholas Schmidle (who wrote the recently published “Test Gods” revealing a number of problems inherent in the VG program) was the first to note the hastily rescheduled Unity 22 that carried Branson encountered issues with its attitude and the parameters established for a proper ascent and return to their base. In the process of dealing with these issues, the aircraft has also been reported to have flown outside the airspace assigned to their flight. The flight ostensibly occurred well ahead of when it was expected so that Branson could beat Blue Origin’s Jeff Bezos to space… though their flight was woefully short of the established Karman line that defines ‘space’ for most of the world.
The FAA has confirmed to a number of media sources that… “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.”
Surprisingly, the company announced that they are conducting a passenger flight (Unity 23, pictured) for the Italian military in an early Thursday announcement, even as the FAA was demanding an investigation into the violations of the flight protocols established for their first passenger flight with Branson and several staffers. The company, well-known for its ability to ‘spin’ bad news (of which there has been much) and occasionally lean on media to get the outcome they desire, has brushed off the FAA grounding, telling media that, “We take this seriously and are currently addressing the causes of the issue and determining how to prevent this from occurring on future missions… We have been working closely with the FAA to support a thorough review and timely resolution of this issue.”
And yet, they still insist they will be flying passengers at the end of this month or early the next. More info to follow…