FAA Finds Richard Branson's Flight to Space Went Off Course While Landing

Samson Amore

Samson Amore is a reporter for dot.LA. He holds a degree in journalism from Emerson College. Send tips or pitches to samsonamore@dot.la and find him on Twitter @Samsonamore.

FAA Finds Richard Branson's Flight to Space Went Off Course While Landing
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The Federal Aviation Administration cleared Virgin Galactic for future takeoffs after closing on Wednesday their investigation into this summer's launch that took billionaire Richard Branson into space.

Virgin's operations were grounded Sept. 2 following its July 11 launch of the SpaceShipTwo, the flight that took its founder Branson and five other civilian astronauts into space. While the craft was descending, it failed to properly communicate with the FAA as it changed course, which swiftly prompted the organization to temporarily shut down Virgin's operations until it could figure out what went wrong.

"The investigation found the Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo vehicle deviated from its assigned airspace on its descent from space," the FAA said. The federal air and space regulator also said it found "Virgin Galactic failed to communicate the deviation to the FAA as required."

The space tourism company said it accepted several suggestions from the FAA to ensure future flights are up to code -- including updating calculations to widen the range of protected airspace in future launches to give itself a wide berth. The company said this will alleviate any issues with going out of its designated airspace while returning from space, a key step towards avoiding collisions.

Virgin Galactic's shares jumped more than 10% in after-hours trading following the FAA's announcement. At market close the stock was down 3.5%.

While nothing crashed during the July 11 launch, that was one of the FAA's main concerns when Virgin deviated from its flight path. The New Yorker first reported that a warning light went off in the Virgin Galactic craft during the July launch, warning passengers it was traveling a dangerously shallow flight path, which prompted the change in course.

Unlike its competitors including Elon Musk's SpaceX or Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic opts to have a human crew operate every one of its test flights instead of automating them, which makes precision even more important. After all, it's costly to lose a rocket but the technology can be rebuilt -- if a human dies in the process of a Virgin Galactic launch, that's a loss impossible to recoup.

"Under its license, Virgin Galactic is responsible for ensuring the safe conduct of its launch," the FAA said. "This includes having a robust safety organization with processes and procedures that immediately call attention to potential safety issues."

Virgin said it will also work to provide real-time mission updates to FAA's Air Traffic Control.

Virgin Galactic CEO Michael Colglazier said in a statement Wednesday, "we appreciate the FAA's thorough review of this inquiry. Our test flight program is specifically designed to continually improve our processes and procedures."

Colglazier continued, "the updates to our airspace and real-time mission notification protocols will strengthen our preparations as we move closer to the commercial launch of our spaceflight experience."

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Image Source: Tinder

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Tinder is altering dating profile creation with its new AI-powered Photo Selector feature, designed to help users choose their most appealing dating profile pictures. This innovative tool employs facial recognition technology to curate a set of up to 10 photos from the user's device, streamlining the often time-consuming process of profile setup. To use the feature, users simply take a selfie within the Tinder app and grant access to their camera roll. The AI then analyzes the photos based on factors like lighting and composition, drawing from Tinder's research on what makes an effective profile picture.

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Top LA Accelerators that Entrepreneurs Should Know About

Los Angeles, has a thriving startup ecosystem with numerous accelerators, incubators, and programs designed to support and nurture new businesses. These programs provide a range of services, including funding, mentorship, workspace, networking opportunities, and strategic guidance to help entrepreneurs develop their ideas and scale their companies.


Techstars Los Angeles

Techstars is a global outfit with a chapter in Los Angeles that opened in 2017. It prioritizes local companies but will fund some firms based outside of LA.

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Type of Funding: Pre-seed, early stage

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Grid110

Grid110 offers no-cost, no-equity programs for entrepreneurs in Los Angeles, including a 12-week Residency accelerator for early-stage startups, an Idea to Launch Bootcamp for pre-launch entrepreneurs, and specialized programs like the PledgeLA Founders Fund and Friends & Family program, all aimed at providing essential skills, resources, and support to help founders develop and grow their businesses.

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Idealab

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MedTech Innovator

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KidsX

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Disney Accelerator

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Techstars Space Accelerator

Techstars Space Accelerator is a startup accelerator program focused on advancing the next generation of space technology companies. The three-month mentorship-driven program brings together founders from across the globe to work on big ideas in aerospace, including rapid launch services, precision-based imaging, operating systems for complex robotics, in-space servicing, and thermal protection.

Location: Los Angeles

Type of Funding: Growth stage

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Notable Past Companies: Pixxel, Morpheus Space



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🚁 One Step Closer to Air Taxis in LA
Image Source: Joby Aviation

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Joby Aviation, a pioneering electric air taxi company, has achieved a significant milestone by successfully flying a hydrogen-electric aircraft demonstrator for 523 miles with only water as a byproduct. This groundbreaking flight showcases the potential for emissions-free regional travel using vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft, eliminating the need for traditional runways. The company's innovative approach combines its existing battery-electric air taxi technology with hydrogen fuel cells, paving the way for longer-range, environmentally friendly air travel.

For LA residents, this development holds exciting implications for future transportation options. Joby's technology could potentially enable direct flights from LA to destinations like San Francisco or San Diego without the need to visit conventional airports, offering a cleaner and more convenient alternative to current travel methods. The company's progress in both battery-electric and hydrogen-electric aircraft positions it at the forefront of next-generation aviation, promising to revolutionize urban and regional mobility.

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