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FAA Grounds Virgin Galactic Pending an Investigation into July Flight

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The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has grounded Virgin Galatic’s  (SPCE) - Get Free Report spacecraft on Thursday. The move came just a day after the New Yorker magazine reported that yellow caution light appeared on the ship’s console during Branson’s July flight to space.

The FAA said the agency is overseeing the Virgin Galactic investigation of its July 11 SpaceShipTwo mishap that occurred over Spaceport America, New Mexico. 

"SpaceShipTwo deviated from its Air Traffic Control clearance as it returned to Spaceport America," the agency said in a statement. "Virgin Galactic may not return the SpaceShipTwo vehicle to flight until the FAA approves the final mishap investigation report or determines the issues related to the mishap do not affect public safety."

Virgin Galactic said that they are closely working with the FAA to support a thorough review and timely resolution of this issue.

“Although the flight’s ultimate trajectory deviated from our initial plan, it was a controlled and intentional flight path that allowed Unity 22 to successfully reach space and land safely at our Spaceport in New Mexico. At no time were passengers and crew put in any danger as a result of this change in trajectory, and at no time did the ship travel above any population centers or cause a hazard to the public. FAA representatives were present in our control room during the flight and in post-flight debriefs," said Virgin Galactic spokesperson, in a statement. 

Related: How Much Would You Pay for a Ticket to Space?

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