Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo Destroyed During Test Flight

Virgin Galactic has reported that their SpaceShipTwo has experienced an in-flight anomaly during a rocket powered test flight over the Mojave Desert, Calif. Friday morning. Continue reading →

Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo has been destroyed after "an in-flight anomaly" during a rocket powered test flight over the Mojave Desert, Calif. Friday morning.

"#SpaceShipTwo has experienced an in-flight anomaly. Additional info and statement forthcoming," the official Virgin Galactic feed tweeted at 10:13 a.m. PDT (1:13 p.m. EDT). This announcement came 6 minutes after the space tourism company announced the sub-orbital spacecraft's engines had ignited.

VIDEO: Virgin Galactic Goes Supersonic for the 2nd Time

The anomaly appears to have occurred after the spacecraft, which is designed to carry 6 passengers and two pilots on a trip to the edge of space, was released from its mothership, WhiteKnightTwo, and under powered flight.

Under a normal flight profile, SpaceShipTwo, which is being developed by Scaled Composites, would be carried to an altitude of approximately 45,000 feet before being released. The rocket engines of SpaceShipTwo should then ignite and, during commercial flights with fee-paying tourists, the spaceship is designed to fly to around 62 miles in altitude.

Unfortunately during today's test flight, the first powered flight since January's supersonic test, an anomaly during the rocket-powered phase of flight destroyed the vehicle, scattering debris over the Mojave Desert.

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Virgin Galactic has issued a statement regarding the incident (via Twitter):

"Virgin Galactic's partner Scaled Composites conducted a powered test flight of #SpaceShipTwo earlier today. During the test, the vehicle suffered a serious anomaly resulting in the loss of SpaceShipTwo. WhiteKnightTwo landed safely. Our first concern is the status of the pilots, which is unknown at this time. We will work closely with relevant authorities to determine the cause of this accident and provide updates ASAP."

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The Associated Press has reported that the California Highway Patrol, who are currently on the scene with rescue crews, have announced there has been one confirmed fatality and one major injury after SpaceShipTwo accident.

Virgin Galactic has signed up 800 people for the first series of flights. Tickets cost around $250,000 per seat.

More information to follow.

A telescopic view of the first supersonic flight of Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo on April 29, 2013.

On April 29, 2013, Virgin Galactic took a huge step toward suborbital spaceflight -- the six-person SpaceShipTwo ignited its rocket engine for the first time in flight, accelerating it to supersonic speeds. Richard Branson called the test "critical." Seen here, WhiteKnightTwo -- SpaceShipTwo's mothership -- taxis along the airstrip at California's Mojave Air ans Space Port shortly before takeoff at 7 a.m. PST.

At an altitude of 46,000 ft, WhiteKnightTwo released the spaceship -- manned by a three-person test crew including Virgin Galactic's lead pilot David Mackay.

Shortly after release, the spaceship's rocket engine lit up, accelerating the vehicle faster than sound.

The rocket engine fired for 16 seconds during the landmark flight test. "It looked stunning," Richard Branson told Discovery News shortly after the test.

A telescopic view from the ground highlights the bright exhaust from the SpaceShipTwo's single RocketMotorTwo.

A tail-mounted camera captures an intimate look at the RocketMotorTwo's nozzle -- signatures of the ground crew can be seen on the nozzle.

Richard Branson celebrates the successful flight test with 'Forger' a.k.a. Mark Stucky.

Burt Rutan congratulates Branson after the successful supersonic test flight.

More test flights of SpaceShipTwo are expected, and the first space tourism flights will likely take place in 2014.