Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo crashes
One test pilot has died and another has been seriously injured in the crash of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo during a test flight from Mojave Air and Space Port, California. The company said that the spacecraft suffered an anomaly that resulted in loss of the vehicle. Parachutes were reportedly sighted in the area. One witness said he saw an in-flight explosion and saw debris of the spacecraft scattered across a small area in the desert. The WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft landed safely. It appears the anomaly developed when, or shortly after, ignition of the hybrid-fuel rocket motor. It was the first in-flight firing in over nine months. Virgin Galactic had switched from a rubber-based compound fuel to a plastic-based mix that was designed to improve motor performance. This test had been delayed by weather for some three hours. After a 45 minute climb to 50,000 feet attached to WhiteKnightTwo, SpaceShipTwo was released for its test flight. The accident occurred not long after release.