MOJAVE, Calif., May 31 (UPI) -- Virgin Galactic says it has been granted an experimental launch permit from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration for its suborbital spacecraft SpaceShipTwo.
The permit gives Virgin the green light for powered flight tests of its spacecraft and its carrier aircraft, WhiteKnightTwo, the company said in a release Thursday.
"This important milestone enables our team to progress to the rocket-powered phase of test flight, bringing us a major step closer to bringing our customers to space," George Whitesides, president of Virgin Galactic, said. "We thank the FAA for their timely issuance of this permit, and for their responsible oversight of the test program."
SpaceShipTwo and WhiteKnightTwo have made significant progress in their flight test program, with SpaceShipTwo having safely completed 16 free flights, including three that tested the vehicle's unique "feathering" re-entry system.
Ten ground test firings of the full-scale SpaceShipTwo rocket motor, including full duration burns, have been successfully completed, the company said.
With the FAA permit in hand, Virgin Galactic vehicle developer Scaled Composites is authorized to press onward toward rocket-powered test flights.
"The SpaceShip program is making steady progress, and we are all looking forward to lighting the vehicle's rocket engine in flight for the first time," Doug Shane, president of Scaled, said.
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