Virgin Galactic rockets grounded for probe into Branson’s space flight mishap

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has grounded the billionaire Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo.

The FAA has launched an investigation after the spaceship drifted off course after successfully reaching the inner realms of space on July 11.

When Sir Richard landed he celebrated his mission which had been years in the making and popped open a bottle of fizz to mark the occasion.

However, it has now been claimed that the SpaceShipTwo flew for a short time outside its pre-agreed route, according to New Yorker magazine.

The publication wrote: "[SpaceShipTwo] was veering off course, and the light was a warning to the pilots that their flight path was too shallow and the nose of the ship was insufficiently vertical."

It also claimed that the warnings received by the pilots would normally have led to the ascent being aborted.

Virgin Altlantic has disputed the events that are set out in the New Yorker and according to the BBC described the article as "mischaracterisations".

In a statement from the FAA, it said the agency was investigating the "July 11 SpaceShipTwo mishap that occurred over Spaceport America, New Mexico.

"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."

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Virgin Galactic said on Wednesday that the active FAA investigation “has no impact on future test flights” and on Thursday a second statement was added.

“We take this seriously and are currently addressing the causes of the issue and determining how to prevent this from occurring on future missions,” a spokesperson said.

“We have been working closely with the FAA to support a thorough review and timely resolution of this issue.”

Virgin Galactic is due to welcome its first paying customers next month with three members of the Italian Air Force set to take flight.

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