SpaceShipTwo and WhiteKnightTwo during a glide flight.
Credit: Virgin Galactic

Virgin Galactic announced Monday that the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation had awarded an operating license for the company's SpaceShipTwo.

The license, which took years to obtain, is a necessary part of the company's goal to offer leisure flights to space.

“The granting of our operator license is an important milestone for Virgin Galactic,” said Mike Moses, Virgin Galactic's senior vice president of operations, said in a statement. “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.”

Space tourism is the next frontier for adventurous travelers—with the means. Hundreds of people have already put down deposits on the first Virgin Galactic flights out of the Earth's atmosphere. But those flights are not yet scheduled: There's an extraordinary amount of work and testing to do first.

“The license review process consists of an in-depth review of the vehicles system design, safety analysis and flight trajectory analysis, culminating in FAA-AST approval,” Virgin Galactic posted on its blog.

Richard Branson reveals the new SpaceShipTwo.
Credit: Getty Images

The company unveiled SpaceShipTwo earlier this year. In 2014, the company experienced a tragic setback when the first spaceship crashed, killing one of the pilots.

After the crash, Branson said he wasn't sure if they should continue, but “the 600 engineers and technicians ... made it very clear they wanted to” carry on with the mission.

Years of hard work are now paying off, with the FAA approval and further progress toward the flight tests.