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Richard Branson is Under Investigation by the FAA

The FAA confirmed that Branson's Virgin Galactic aircraft "deviated from its Air Traffic Control Clearance as it returned to Spaceport America."

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The Federal Aviation Administration is probing an anomaly from Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic space flight. 

Gabe Ginsberg | Getty Images

After the New Yorker reported that the regulatory agency was looking into a deviation in the July 11 flight’s descent, the FAA confirmed to Reuters and other outlets that Branson’s aircraft “deviated from its Air Traffic Control Clearance as it returned to Spaceport America. The FAA investigation is ongoing.” 

In response, Virgin Galactic acknowledged that the trajectory of the flight did deviate from the company’s original plan, but “did not fly outside of the lateral confines of the protected airspace.”

Related: Did Richard Branson Really Go Into Space? Neil deGrasse Tyson Says No

“Although the flight’s ultimate trajectory deviated from our initial plan, 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 seconds) before re-entering restricted airspace that is protected all the way to the ground for Virgin Galactic missions," said the statement from Virgin Galactic. 

"At no time did the ship travel above any population centers or cause a hazard to the public. FAA representatives were present in the control room during the flight and in post-flight debriefs. We are working in partnership with the FAA to address the airspace for future flights."

According to the New Yorker report, a red light flashed on the vehicle’s console to indicate an “entry glide-cone-warning.” The Virgin Galactic statement said the company diesputes “the misleading characterizations and conclusions in the New Yorker article.”