Virgin Galactic, the billionaire Richard Branson-founded private spaceflight company, said Friday that it has gained FAA clearance to carry humans to space.
The company said that its current commercial space transportation operator license has been updated to allow it to fly customers, following a successful crewed test flight in May that met all of the mission goals, according to a comprehensive data assessment.
In the next months, Virgin Galactic plans to undertake its “first fully crewed test flight.”
“Today’s FAA acceptance of our complete commercial launch license, along with the success of our May 22 test flight, gives us confidence as we move closer to our first fully crewed test flight this summer,” Virgin Galactic CEO Michael Colglazier said in a statement.
The test flight, which took place on May 22, carried a two-person crew into space for a limited period of time before landing safely at New Mexico’s Spaceport America. The trip was the first time humans were launched into space from New Mexico, and it was Virgin Galactic’s third crewed test flight.
According to the statistics, the flight “performed beautifully,” according to Colglazier.
The FAA’s clearance for Virgin Galactic comes amid recent escalations in the corporate space race, which has become a battleground for billionaires.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos announced earlier this month that he will travel to space in July on a Blue Origin rocket. Branson has also stated that he will be one of the first people to go to space on one of his company’s trips.
Meanwhile, rival SpaceX has had a busy few months as well. By the end of the year, it plans to fly the first all-civilian crew to space, backed by software entrepreneur Jared Isaacman.