One dead after Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo crashes in the Mojave Desert

Virgin Galactic Spaceship Crashes
Virgin Galactic Spaceship Crashes


One pilot is dead and another injured after the second commercial spaceship crash this week, which may have been caused by a new fuel source.

Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo crashed Friday morning in the Mojave Desert, KGET reported. One pilot was reported by the Associated Press to be dead, the other is seriously injured. Officials admitted during a Friday press conference they reformulated the fuel.

The pilot ejected from the dying aircraft and sustained serious injuries, sources told CBS News. The co-pilot died, but it is not clear if he was able to eject. Both were test pilots employed by Standard Composite.

The incident occurred during a test flight shortly after the "space flight vehicle separated from the WhiteKnightTwo, the vehicle that carried it aloft," the FAA said in a statement.

The WhiteKnightTwo launch aircraft landed safely, according to a Virgin statement, but Scaled Composite President Kevin Mickey said Friday that the fuel had been modified.

This was the SpaceShipTwo's fourth powered flight, but "a new fuel formulation that had been proven and tested on the ground" was used Friday, said Mickey.

It had not been used on any prior flights, but Mickey insisted it was not the cause of the accident.

Virgin Galactic initially announced just after 10:00 a.m. PST that the aircraft experienced an "in-flight anomaly."

One hour later, the CEO of Mojave Air and Space Port, Stu Witt, confirmed to KGET that the aircraft had indeed crashed.

"A space emergency like this, a crash, is not an everyday occurrence," Witt said during a Friday afternoon press conference. "We are human, and it hurts."

SpaceShipTwo was able to hold two pilots and six passengers, according to the Virgin Galactic website. It was roughly the size of an executive jet.

The craft was launched into the stratosphere by WhiteKnightTwo and acts as a glider. Pilots have the ability to use a type of hybrid rocket engine to propel the space ship forward, according to Virgin.

The engine was also able to be turned off to allow the SpaceShipTwo to glide back down to the runway should any in-flight problems have arisen.

It is not clear what problems led to the spacecraft's crash.

A commercial rocket built by Orbital Sciences Corporation spectacularly exploded on national television at liftoff Tuesday night.

There were no casualties in the failed launch because the rocket was unmanned.

Branson famously said earlier this year that he expected to take his family to space on a Virgin Galactic rocket by September 2014. He is expected to arrive Saturday morning at the crash scene.

It is not known if that trip ever happened, but, if it has not, this setback may cause him to think twice about such a voyage.

This is a developing story, more information will come as it is made available.

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