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The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) confirmed Thursday to AFP that it is investigating the details of Virgin Galactic's famous trip into space last July, and announced that it will not be able to make any further flights until it has been determined why it deviated from its planned trajectory.
According to RT en Español, Virgin Galactic deviated from its initial course by one minute and 41 seconds during its first manned flight into space with British billionaire Richard Branson on board, a company spokesman confirmed to The New Yorker.
An FAA spokesman said the spacecraft deviated from the route authorized by Air Traffic Control. Following the incident, Virgin Galactic set to work with the Federal Aviation Administration to update procedures to alert the agency in a timely manner, its spokesman said.
"Virgin Galactic will not be able to fly SpaceShipTwo again until the FAA approves the final mishap investigation report or determines that the problem does not affect public safety," the federal agency said.
The spacecraft flew out of designated airspace shortly after takeoff from New Mexico (USA), when it was about 30 kilometers above the White Sands Missile Range. Immediately the red light came on to alert the pilots of problems with its flight path and that the nose of the aircraft was not vertical enough.
The crew ran a real risk of having to undertake a dangerous emergency landing in the desert during the descent, but fortunately the pilots managed to get the craft into space and landed safely.
The red alert indicates the highest severity of the situation, when it may even be too late to act. In cases like this, pilots usually have only two options: correct the situation immediately or abort the rocket engine. According to Virgin Galactic sources consulted by The New Yorker, the safest course of action during that flight would have been to abort, although the company spokesman refuted that claim.
The media reports that the pilots' attempts to fix the trajectory problem were not enough, and they also accelerated to Mach 3 with the red light glowing in the cockpit.