Virgin Galactic receives license for new rocket shipNewsBy Juliana Shallcross | August 1, 2016Share This article was originally published on After a tough setback in 2014, Virgin Galactic hopes to get one step closer to offering commercial flights into space.The company, owned by Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group and Aabar Investments PSJ, secured operator licenses today from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation for its newest space ship, the VSS Unity, and for the companion rocket, WhiteKnightTwo.These licenses mean the company can soon begin testing for flights into space. Indeed, the company undertook a “taxi test” today in the Mojave Desert with a Range Rover Autobiography SUV.The license approval comes nearly two years after the fatal crash of VSS Enterprise, Virgin Galactic’s first SpaceShipTwo aircraft, which killed one pilot and severely injured another.Extensive incident investigations revealed that a myriad of problems—technical and human—were to blame.This time around, Virgin Galactic has been more open about its “rigorous” testing standards, posting regular updates to its website, including one in February that said before the company had even assembled the space ship’s pieces together, they were put through several tests: "Starting at the level of individual pieces and components, we poked, prodded, stretched, squeezed, bent, and twisted everything used to build these vehicles. We’ve run a spaceship cabin through thousands of pressure cycles simulating the flight from ground level to space and back; we’ve conducted nearly one hundred full-scale tests of our rocket motor system; we’ve bent and torqued our mega-structures in ways significantly exceeding what they’d see in flight."Share this quote In March, Virgin Galactic also released details on its Integrated Vehicle Ground testing which simulates flight-like conditions.There’s no word on when Virgin Galactic will actually begin flight tests for VSS Unity. But Mike Moses, Virgin Galactic’s senior VP of operations, alluded to more on-the-ground tests. “The granting of our operator license is an important milestone for Virgin Galactic, as is our first taxi test for our new spaceship. 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.”Share this quoteFares for Virgin Galactic’s space flights begin at $250,000. The company has already collected deposits from about 700 passengers. After the crash in 2014, passenger numbers dropped by 3 percent, but had nearly recovered by August 2015.