Space Tourism company Virgin Galactic announced today that the US Federal Aviation Administration has given the company the final license it needs to fly passengers on future spaceflights.
Up to now Virgin Galactic the commercial license that the company had did not allow them to carry commercial passengers.
The announcement comes after the company passed the final two FAA milestones during two spaceflight tests in May.
Virgin Galactic’s stock jumped an incredible 38.9% on the announcement which might see the first space-tourism flights this year.
In order to be allowed to fly the company has to complete a 29 element verification and validation program that the FAA had created.
It was only during spaceflight trials last month that the company cleared the final two milestones.
These last critical tests allowed Virgin to showcase the spacecraft’s flight-control systems and inertial navigation systems.
So far only a handful of five Virgin Galactic employees have been recognised by the FFA as astronauts. Curiously the US recognises the boundary of space as 50 miles above the Earths surface ( whereas the rest of the world recognises space starting at 62 miles ) so anyone needing to fly above this height is seen as an astronaut by the US FAA.
The five employees so far allowed has included four traditional pilots alongside Virgin Galactic chief astronaut trainer Beth Moses.
The spacecraft – Unity – has been designed to hold up to six passengers along with the two pilots.
Tickets cost between $200,000 and $250,000 each but that has not deterred the 600 people who have already reserved tickets on future flights.
Virgin have said they wish to complete three additional test flights in the next year before it would start carrying passengers in the spacecraft cabin.