America’s Federal Aviation Administration has granted Virgin Galactic a licence to carry passengers on future flights to space.
The company confirmed the licence had been granted on Friday, moving it a step closer to offering commercial space flights.
The FAA had previously issued a licence to cover Virgin Galactic’s ongoing test flights and has now extended it to cover passengers.
Michael Colglazier, Virgin Galactic chief executive, said: “We’re incredibly pleased with the results of our most recent test flight, which achieved our stated flight test objectives.
“The flight performed flawlessly, and the results demonstrate the safety and elegance of our flight system. Today’s approval by the FAA of our full commercial launch licence, in conjunction with the success of our 22 May test flight, give us confidence as we proceed toward our first fully crewed test flight this summer.”
Sir Richard Branson’s company is one of a number pursuing similar goals, with others including Blue Origin, funded by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, and Tesla chief Elon Musk’s SpaceX.
A timeline previously announced by Virgin Galactic would see fully-crewed test flights begin next month.