Virgin Galactic and Spaceport America have signed a joint agreement with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for access to airspace for spaceflights from New Mexico. The agreement helps to pave the way for commercial flights of Virgin's SpaceShipTwo, and is the first agreement of its type for a commercial spaceline.

The commercial space industry continues to gather pace. News of the Virgin Galactic/Spaceport America milestone fell within 24 hours of SpaceX unveiling its Dragon V2 manned spacecraft, which will be used to carry astronauts to and from the International Space Station.

Virgin Galactic's agreement with the FAA lays out a framework for how launches from Spaceport America will be integrated into the the National Airspace System (NAS). The NAS comprises the airports, air traffic controllers, radars and communication tools, and so on, that are required to manage airspace over the US.

In addition, agreements are in place between the New Mexico Spaceport Authority and the US Army’s White Sands Missile Range (WSMR), and between Virgin Galactic and Edwards Air Force Base. These cover support for space launch activities within WSMR airspace and for spaceflights in California, respectively. They complete the airspace agreements required for Virgin Galactic's continued test flight program and planned commercial operations in New Mexico.

"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," said Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides. "We are grateful to the FAA and New Mexico for their partnership to achieve this milestone."