Virgin Galactic has been given the go-ahead to fly paying customers to space after its licence was updated.
Sir Richard Branson’s company was given the green light by the United States’ Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on Friday.
Virgin Galactic’s previous licence only permitted them to conduct test flights but the updated version means the company will “proceed toward our first fully crewed test flight this summer”.
Billionaire businessman Mr Branson had been tipped to be on board a space flight on July 4 from their spaceport in New Mexico but this was dismissed as speculation.
A spokeswoman for Virgin Galactic said: “As previously announced, we expect to complete the final test flights this summer through to early fall.
“At this time, we have not determined the date of our next flight.”
Virgin Galactic will begin preparing for three remaining tests after a test flight on May 22 “performed well against all flight objectives”.
The May 22 flight achieved a speed of Mach 3 and reached space at an altitude of 55.5 miles, the company said.
Michael Colglazier, chief executive officer of Virgin Galactic, said: “We’re incredibly pleased with the results of our most recent test flight, which achieved our stated flight test objectives.
“The flight performed flawlessly and the results demonstrate the safety and elegance of our flight system.
“Today’s approval by the FAA of our full commercial launch licence, in conjunction with the success of our May 22 test flight, give us confidence as we proceed toward our first fully crewed test flight this summer.”