Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo Crashes During First Powered Test Flight In 9 Months
Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo has suffered what is being described as a "serious in flight anomaly" during its first powered test flight since the beginning of the year. Virgin Galactic's suborbital spacecraft requires two pilots, both of whom are equipped with parachutes and witnesses reported seeing at least one of those chutes deployed shortly after an explosion on the craft.
Update: An AP report suggests that one fatality and one serious casualty are being reported by the California highway patrol.
BREAKING: California Highway Patrol reports 1 fatality, 1 major injury after SpaceShipTwo accident.— The Associated Press (@AP) October 31, 2014
#SpaceShipTwo has experienced an in-flight anomaly. Additional info and statement forthcoming.— Virgin Galactic (@virgingalactic) October 31, 2014
Witnesses from the scene reported seeing an explosion on the craft as it took off from the Mojave Air and Spaceport in California, and debris has been found spread across a wide span of the surrounding area.
"During the test. the vehicle suffered a serious anomaly resulting in the loss of the vehicle," said a statement from the company. "The WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft landed safely. Our first concern is the status of the pilots, which is unknown at this time."
As people await news of the pilots' wellbeing, pictures of debris from the crash are emerging online.
The anomaly that caused the crash reportedly came almost immediately after SpaceShipTwo fired up its rockets for the first time in 9 months. Today's flight was also the first time Virgin Galactic had used a new plastic-based fuel mixture, which, it was hoped, would offer an increase in engine performance compared to the old rubber-based mixture.
After 45 minutes of climbing to an altitude of 50,000ft, SpaceShipTwo undocked from its WhiteKnightTwo mothership and began the process of firing up the rockets that would normally see the craft accelerate to speeds of up to 2,485 mph (4,000 km/h).