Richard Branson's Space Travel Flight Came Close to Crashing, Virgin Galactic Denies Claim
08:12 GMT 02.09.2021 (Updated: 15:15 GMT 28.05.2023)
British Billionaire Richard Branson and four other passengers flew to the edge of space on 11 July aboard a Virgin Galactic aircraft, travelling to an altitude of 62 miles and experiencing a few minutes of zero-gravity. The firm had claimed the mission was a completee success.
The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is conducting an investigation into a report claiming the Virgin Galactic rocket plane that carried Virgin group founder Richard Branson to space deviated from its trajectory on 11 July. The report published in The New Yorker claimed that red and yellow warning lights appeared on the space aircraft's console indicating that the mission was veering off its projected path.
"The light was a warning to the pilots that their flight path was too shallow and the nose of the ship was insufficiently vertical", The New Yorker report stated. "If they didn't fix it, they risked a perilous emergency landing in the desert on their descent", the report, which is based on interviews with eight unnamed Virgin Galactic officials, added.
The firm admitted that the mission actually diverted from its path but underlined the report's characterisations and conclusions are misleading.
"Unity 22 was a safe and successful test flight that adhered to our flight procedures and training protocols. When the vehicle encountered high-altitude winds which changed the trajectory, the pilots and systems monitored the trajectory to ensure it remained within mission parameters… At no time were passengers and crew put in any danger as a result of this change in trajectory", Virgin Galactic claimed in a statement.
© 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
Richard 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
On the FAA investigation, Virgin Galactic added that "the Unity 22 flight did not fly outside of the lateral confines of the protected airspace".
"As a result of the trajectory adjustment, the flight did drop below the altitude of the airspace that is protected for Virgin Galactic missions for a short distance and time (1 minute and 41 sec) before re-entering restricted airspace that is protected all the way to the ground for the Virgin Galactic missions. At no time did the ship travel above any population centres or cause a hazard to the public", the firm said, adding, that it is working with the FAA to address the airspace issue for future flights.
By going into space, 70-year-old Branson beat out two other billionaire space enthusiasts who plan to leave the Earth in spaceships of their own - Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk.
On 20 July, another billionaire, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, travelled into space, aboard a Blue Origins orbital spacecraft.