Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo suborbital passenger spaceship crashed during a test flight today at the Mojave Air and Space Port killing one crew member and seriously injuring another.
Television footage of the Virgin Galactic crash site showed wreckage of the spacecraft lying in two large pieces on the ground, and the company said the spacecraft was destroyed.
The co-pilot of the spaceship was killed in the crash, while the pilot, who ejected, was injured. The injured pilot was found at the scene and taken to a local hospital.
The SpaceShipTwo is based on a prototype, SpaceShipOne, which 10 years ago won the $10 million Ansari X Prize for becoming the first privately developed manned spacecraft to fly in space.
“During the test, the vehicle suffered a serious anomaly resulting in the loss of SpaceShipTwo”, Virgin Galactic said in a statement, adding: “We will work closely with relevant authorities to determine the cause of this accident and provide updates as soon as possible.”
The NTSB announced that it will send a Go-Team to investigate the crash. Senior Investigator Lorenda Ward is leading the team as investigator-in-charge. Acting Chairman Christopher A. Hart is accompanying the team and will serve as the principal spokesman during the on-scene phase of the investigation.
The FAA informed that the incident occurred over the Mojave Desert shortly after the space flight vehicle separated from WhiteKnightTwo, the vehicle that carried it aloft. WhiteKnightTwo remained airborne after the incident.
George Whitesides, CEO of Virgin Galactic, provided the following statement:
“Our primary thoughts at this moment are with the crew and family, and we’re doing everything we can for them now. I’d like to recognize the work of the first responders who we work with in the Antelope Valley for their efforts on behalf of the team. We’re also thinking of the team members that we have at the companies that have been working on this program.
Space is hard and today was a tough day. We are going to be supporting the investigation as we figure out what happened today. We’re going to get through it. The future rests in many ways on hard days like this, but we believe we owe it to the team, that has been working so hard on this endeavour, to understand this and to move forward. And that is what we’ll do.”
Sir Richard Branson is on his way to Mojave and is expected to arrive by early Saturday morning.