Richard Branson’s commercial space venture Virgin Galactic is inching closer toward "all systems go."
The billionaire announced yesterday that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) had signed an agreement to work alongside Virgin Galactic to grant its suborbital flights clearance for blastoff.
Six hundred people have already reserved trips at $250,000 a pop, with flights slated to commence by year’s end from New Mexico’s Spaceport America.
The pact lays out parameters about how the FAA’s Albuquerque Air Route Traffic Control Center will collaborate with the Spaceport as well as Virgin Galactic in order to clear airspace and integrate routine flights into its systems.
However, there are still some hurdles to vault before the likes of Katy Perry, Tom Hanks and Justin Bieber make their maiden voyages.
The agreement, for instance, does not give Virgin Galactic license to launch routine missions, but rather establishes how they might be coordinated within national airspace. And there still remains “a long road of approvals involving safety concerns, environmental impact and insurance matters,” according to The Los Angeles Times.