In what has been a difficult week for private space companies, Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo exploded and crashed during a test flight in Mojave, California on Friday.
SpaceShipTwo, a private suborbital spaceplane designed for space tourism, was conducting its fourth powered flight test over the Mojave Desert when, according to Virgin Galactic, “the vehicle suffered a serious anomaly resulting in the loss of the vehicle,” The explosion occurred shortly after SpaceShipTwo separated from the WhiteKnightTwo carrier craft.
“The WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft landed safely,” according to Virgin Galactic. “Our first concern is the status of the pilots, which is unknown at this time.” The California Highway Patrol has reported one fatality and one major injury as a result of the accident.
“Space is hard, and today was a tough day,” Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides told reporters during a press conference Friday. “We are going to be supporting the investigation as we figure out what happened today, and 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 folks who were flying these vehicles as well as the folks who have been working so hard on them to understand this and to move forward, which is what we’ll do.”
“On behalf of the entire NASA family, I offer our deepest condolences to the family and loved ones of the pilot lost in today’s accident involving Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo, and we are praying for a speedy recovery of the other pilot.” NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said in a statement.
“While not a NASA mission, the pain of this tragedy will be felt by all the men and women who have devoted their lives to exploration,” Bolden said. “Space flight is incredibly difficult, and we commend the passion of all in the space community who take on risk to push the boundaries of human achievement.”
The news of this crash follows shortly after SpaceShipOne celebrated the 10 year anniversary of becoming the first privately funded human spaceflight. SpaceShipOne is viewed by many as having launched the commercial spaceflight industry.