LAS CRUCES – Virgin Galactic still has obstacles to surmount before rocketing amateur astronauts to space from Spaceport America, not the least of which includes completing its test flight program and obtaining a spaceflight license from the U.S. government.
The Federal Aviation Administration is soon due to respond to Virgin Galactic’s application for the operator license it needs before it can fly tourists on suborbital trips to space – scheduled to begin later this year, according to the company’s latest projection.
The company run by billionaire Sir Richard Branson says it is confident it will earn the license in time. While the FAA does not comment on pending applications, a spokesman said that the government shutdown and requests for information from the company could extend the mandated 180-day review period. Based on Virgin Galactic’s August application, a response would be due in February, without accounting for delays.
“The application process is well underway and Virgin Galactic is confident that the FAA award will be made in good time for it to begin commercial service later this year,” the company said in a statement.