Virgin Galactic received an operator license for its SpaceShipTwo space vehicle from the Federal Aviation Administration, the company announced.
The license will allow for flight tests and commercial operation of the vehicle, a replacement for one that crashed in 2014.
SpaceShipTwo, dubbed VSS Unity, will take paying customers up to a sub-orbital altitude before gliding back to earth. The craft was built and will be tested at the Mojave Air and Space Port in the Antelope Valley.
On the same day the company received notice of the license from the FAA, a taxi test was done with Unity, in which the spacecraft moves along the runway without taking to the air.
Mike Moses, senior vice president of operations for Virgin Galactic, said that both the granting of the operator license and the first taxi test were important milestones for the new spacecraft.
“While we still have much work ahead to fully test this spaceship in flight, I am confident that our world-class team is up to the challenge,” Moses said in a prepared statement.
The first SpaceShipTwo was built by Scaled Composites, a subsidiary of aerospace giant Northrop Grumman Corp. On Oct. 31, 2014, the vehicle crashed minutes into a test flight, scattering pieces across miles of empty Mojave Desert scrub.
Co-pilot Michael Alsbury was killed in the crash while pilot Peter Siebold was injured.
The National Transportation Safety Board concluded that Scaled Composites had not ensured that test pilots were aware of the dangers of unlocking a descent mechanism early, which caused the crash, nor had the company used technology to protect against human error.