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Richard Branson responds to investigation into space test flight

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Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson clarified the nature of the mishap during his July spaceflight that has since resulted in an investigation by the Federal Aviation Administration and a ban on the company conducting any more launches.

"It was a test flight. As far as I was concerned, it just couldn't have gone better," Branson said in an interview on TODAY Tuesday. "It felt like it went straight up into space. Sometime later I learned it went a tiny bit out of the designated area but still over desert. It wasn't over any cities or anything like that, and it was only for a minute."

"Test flights are test flights, and you're going to discover these things and make sure you get them right in the future," he added.

Earlier this month, the FAA announced that the Virgin Galactic rocket ship that carried Branson and five other people into the edge of space on July 11 veered outside the air traffic control clearance area while descending back to New Mexico.

“Virgin Galactic may not return the SpaceShipTwo vehicle to flight until the FAA approves the final mishap investigation report or determines the issues related to the mishap do not affect public safety,” the FAA said in a statement.

The FAA, which is responsible for protecting the public during commercial launches and reentries, is overseeing the investigation into the incident.

Virgin Galactic said that the spacecraft went outside the cleared area for a minute and 41 seconds due to "high-altitude wind" but the pilots "responded appropriately."

In a statement, the spaceflight company called the July launch “a safe and successful test flight that adhered to our flight procedures and training protocols.”

“At no time were passengers and crew put in any danger as a result of this change in trajectory,” the company said.

Pending the investigation, Branson's company is planning to conduct its next spaceflight in late September or early October. It also plans to start flying tourists who've purchased tickets next year.

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