Virgin Galactic Grounded as FAA Investigates Spacecraft Flight Issues
00:25 GMT 03.09.2021 (Updated: 00:26 GMT 03.09.2021)
© AP Photo / VIRGIN GALACTICRichard Branson and Virgin Galactic crew members enter the company's passenger rocket plane, the VSS Unity, in a still image from undated handout video taken at Spaceport America near Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, US
© AP Photo / VIRGIN GALACTIC
The FAA has grounded all future Virgin Galactic flights until it finishes an investigation in a mishap on the company's much-publicized July 11th flight. The spacecraft went off trajectory and out of its designated airspace for nearly two minutes as pilots ignored warnings.
The Federal Aviation Administration has grounded Virgin Galactic from any future flights as the agency investigates the company’s historic July 11th flight. The FAA is investigating a mishap from the flight to determine if there is any threat to public safety. The much-publicized flight saw Virgin Galactic owner Richard Branson become the first billionaire in space and saw him beat Blue Origin and Jeff Bezos to space.
11 July 2021, 11:24 GMT
According to reports, a warning light came on due to the spacecraft going off trajectory. The spacecraft was outside its designated airspace for 1 minute and 41 seconds as pilots corrected the trajectory problem. Virgin Galactic has maintained that, despite the error, they 'remained within mission parameters.' However, a former test pilot with the company, Mark Stucky, has been vehemently critical of the operation, stating in a Twitter post,
"The most misleading statement today was Virgin Galactic's. The facts are the pilots failed to trim to achieve the proper pitch rate, the winds were well within limits, they did nothing of substance to address the trajectory error, and entered Class A airspace without authorization."
Virgin Galactic’s assertion that being outside of their designated airspace for 1 minute and 41 seconds provided no danger is a hollow statement without context. Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo vehicle has reached speeds of 2,300 MPH. At that speed, in 1 minute and 41 seconds, the vehicle would have traveled 64.5 miles.
When it comes to space travel, the microscopic is of the utmost importance. One second or degree can be the difference between life or death, and Virgin Galactic's July 11th flight never needed to risk the public’s safety. When the alarm was raised that the spacecraft was off its trajectory, the pilots could have simply killed the engines and waited for a safer day to get to space. One must wonder, if Richard Branson and all the publicity hadn’t been on that flight, would the pilots have risked disaster?