Yesterday was a big one for the private spaceflight industry.
While SpaceX was busy whisking sheets off of space capsules to ferry humans back and forth to the International Space Station, their colleagues/competitors at Virgin Galactic got some good news from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) about their efforts to launch commercial tourist flights to the edge of space from Spaceport America in New Mexico.
Headlines like this one in the Daily Mail overstate the case a bit:
This one from (an otherwise accurate) Mashable article is off the mark as well, and not just because the design of Virgin's SpaceShipTwo means that there really isn't a blast-off from the spaceport in the sense that we are accustomed to from NASA's shuttles—it's more like a take-off:
The FAA and other federal regulators will still have a lot say about what Virgin can and cannot do. But the space tourism company founded by ultrarich entrepreneur Richard Branson did manage to reach an agreement with the FAA about how flights out of the heavily taxpayer subsidized Spaceport America will interact with terrestrial air traffic control authorities in Albuquerque.
"Our team is working hard to begin routine and affordable space launches from Spaceport America and this agreement brings us another step closer to that goal," Virgin Galactic Chief Executive George Whitesides said in a statement. "We are grateful to the FAA and New Mexico for their partnership to achieve this milestone."
More from Reason on the FAA as a roadblock to space tourism here.