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Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo Crashes During Test Flight

SpaceShipTwo, a rocket meant to carry wealthy tourists on rides to space, crashed in the Mojave Desert on Friday during a test flight. The accident killed one of the two pilots on board.

The unidentified pilots were flying the plane for Virgin Galactic, a space tourism company created by Richard Branson and Scaled Composites, which designed and built the rocket plane, the New York Times reported.

One pilot parachuted from the plane and was transported to the hospital with “moderate to major injuries.”

This was SpaceShipTwo’s first powered flight using a new plastic-based fuel for a redesigned engine system. If the first few test flights went well, it would have taken company founder Richard Branson out of earth’s atmosphere within the next few months, the Wall Street Journal reported. The flight was conducted under a special permit granted by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

[quote text_size=”small” author=”– George Whitesides” author_title=”Virgin Galactic chief executive”]

Space is hard, and today was a tough day. The future rests in many ways on hard days like this.


This was also the second major accident in just one week for the commercial space industry. On Tuesday, an unmanned Antares rocket launched by Orbital Sciences Corporation, which was loaded with cargo and headed for the International Space Station, exploded just seconds after launch in Virginia.

Virgin Galactic hopes to start tourist flights into space in the spring. The company has sold more than 700 reservations, which had an initial price of $200,000 per seat, although the price later increased to $250,000. The list of customers includes Angelina Jolie, Justin Bieber and Leonardo DiCaprio.

The cause of the accident is still unknown. A team from the National Transportation Safety Board is expected on site on Saturday. The team of investigators will be led by acting chairman Christopher Hart, ABC News reports.

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