It came to light earlier this year that despite promising to fly you through space Virgin Galactic didn't actually have Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approval to take off from the US. Now, it has struck a deal, which should see it able to take to the skies.
The company, already deep in testing, has signed a deal with the FAA which sets clear guidelines about how its missions will be carried out in US airspace. In particular, it outlines procedures for the safe integration of its commercial, licensed space launch operations into the National Airspace System from Virgin's New Mexico Spaceport America. In other words, it means that it's reached agreement with the FAA about how it will send its aircraft up into space.
It doesn't currently, however give Virgin a licence to embark on regular trips to space with paying passengers. To clear that hurdle, Virgin Galactic will have to pass safety audits, environmental checks and sign insurance deals. But, arguably, that kind of stuff can't really happen until the craft itself is tested and ready for commercial use — so it would be harsh to see that as a huge obstacle. All told, then, a welcome relief for the 600 people that have already reserved a ride in the most ridiculous commercial aircraft ever. They may get into space yet. [Virgin Galactic]