Space tourism Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo rocket plane explodes at 45,000 Feet
The Scaled Composites Model 339 SpaceShipTwo explosion came after the plane dropped away from its WhiteKnightTwo carrier airplane and fired up its hybrid rocket engine, said Stuart Witt, CEO and general manager of the Mojave Air and Space Port in California. The blast scattered debris across a two-mile swath of the desert floor north of Mojave, which is about 95 miles (150 kilometers) outside Los Angeles.
"We hope that the survivor will be just fine," Youngblood said during a news briefing.
The pilots have not yet been identified, but both of them worked for Mojave-based Scaled Composites, according to Scaled's president, Kevin Mickey. Scaled has played a key role in developing and testing SpaceShipTwo for Virgin Galactic.
Virgin Galactic had planned to use this SpaceShipTwo to fly passengers on suborbital trips to the edge of space, beginning as early as next year. A nearly identical rocket plane is already under construction inside a Mojave hangar. More than 700 customers, including celebrities such as Ashton Kutcher and Justin Bieber, have paid as much as $250,000 to take a ride.
First powered flight in months
|Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo Mojave Desert Crash Site|
Credit: Image from video by KABC TV Los Angeles shows wreckage of what is believed to be SpaceShipTwo in Southern California'son Friday, Oct. 31, 2014.
Here is some of the reaction to the crash:
— Former NASA top space scientist Alan Stern has seats to fly on Virgin Galactic — and its competitor XCOR aerospace. He isn't rethinking plans to fly in space at all.
"Let's not be chicken Littles here," said Stern, now a vice president at Southwest Research Institute. "The birth of aviation was also a very dangerous time period."
"All forms of transportation carry risk," he said. "To expect spaceflight could somehow be different is unrealistic on the part of the public or anyone. Secondly to do something very hard, to do something on the frontier, comes with risk."
— Eric Stallmer, the president of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, offered his sympathies to the families affected by the explosion.
"Today, we are tragically reminded of the tremendous challenges that we face every day in our efforts to push the envelope of human experience and capability in space enterprise and exploration," he said.
Stallmer and Bill Nye, chief executive of the Planetary Society, said the courage of both pilots and the commitment Virgin Galactic has made to space tourism will serve as inspiration as the industry continues to make space travel as safe and reliable as possible.
— Former NASA astronaut Jerry Linenger, who nearly died in a 1997 fire aboard the Russian space station Mir, said when he first met British billionaire Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Galactic, he told him the first thing he'd have to worry about is liability insurance.
"You will have setbacks," Linenger said he told Branson. "That is a reality."
— In New Mexico, from where Virgin Galactic planned to launch its tourism rockets within the next year, hearts were sinking. The New Mexico Spaceport Authority issued a statement saying it was sending its thoughts and prayers out to the crew's family members and the team that has been working for years to develop the rocket.
"We will continue to work with and lend our support to Virgin Galactic through this tragedy and in the coming months as we move forward," the authority said.
Several people expressed sadness that one pilot was killed and another was seriously injured, many also said they understand the risks that come with pushing the boundaries that have hampered the burgeoning commercial space travel industry.
The Scaled Composites Model 339 SpaceShipTwo is a suborbital, air-launched spaceplane designed for space tourism.Wikipedia
First flight: October 10, 2010
Top speed: 2,485 mph (4,000 km/h)
Wingspan: 27' (8.20 m)
Length: 60' (18 m)
Engine type: RocketMotorTwo
Manufacturer: Scaled Composites
Designer: Scaled Composites---------------------------------------------