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.
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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.