Next Virgin Galactic launch set as FAA probes Branson flight

  • When the Virgin Galactic aircraft will be going to the edge of space
  • The process of sending the aircraft into space

 Virgin Galactic plans to launch three Italian researchers to the edge of space in a few weeks, even as its previous flight with founder Richard Branson is under investigation by the Federal Aviation Administration. The FAA said Thursday that the rocketship carrying Branson and five Virgin Galactic employees veered off course during its descent back to New Mexico on July 11. The deviation put the ship outside the Air Traffic Control clearance area. Virgin Galactic said high-altitude wind caused the change in the flight path and insisted the two pilots “responded appropriately.” In a statement, the company said the flight was “a safe and successful test flight that adhered to our flight procedures and training protocols.”

Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin are vying to sell seats to tourists, scientists and anyone else looking to experience a few minutes of weightlessness. Virgin Galactic’s rocket ship is launched from an airplane, while Blue Origin’s capsule is hoisted by a reusable New Shepard rocket. Virgin Galactic is aiming for late September or early October for its next flight, with two Italian Air Force officers, an engineer for the National Research Council of Italy, Virgin Galactic’s chief astronaut instructor and the rocketship’s two pilots.

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