Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic has today received a commercial licence to fly customers into space, the firm announced today.
The US Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) has updated its existing licence to fly test missions to include commercial passengers.
The decision to grant the company a full license comes after a successful test flight last month.
Branson’s firm is one of several competing to be the first to carry paying members of the public to the edge of space.
Earlier this month Amazon founder Jeff Bezos said that he, his brother and the winning bidder in a recent auction would blast off on 20 July.
There had been speculation that Branson would try and beat Bezos into space with a flight on 4 July, but a spokesperson for Virgin Galactic denied this.
Michael Colglazier, chief executive officer of Virgin Galactic, 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 license, in conjunction with the success of our May 22 test flight, give us confidence as we proceed toward our first fully crewed test flight this summer.”
More than 600 people, including a number of movie and music stars, have paid deposits for a trip with Virgin Galactic.