The crash of the SpaceShipTwo spacecraft: What do we know?

The crash of the SpaceShipTwo spacecraft: What do we know?

On Friday morning, the space community was shocked to learn that Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo spacecraft was damaged as a result of a test flight over the Mojave Desert in California.

Local media reported that parts of the suborbital spacecraft were scattered over a large area. It soon became clear that one of the two test pilots died as a result of the incident, and the second one was seriously injured and was taken to the nearest hospital.

Donnay Youngblood County Sheriff was one of the first to arrive at the scene to investigate the scene of the accident and immediately reported that one of the test pilots apparently died.

During the conference, Kevin Mickey, President of Scaled Composites, confirmed that two pilots were from his Scaled team. Although their families were notified, the names of the test pilots were not disclosed.

“Unfortunately, when such disasters occur, we all understand that we are only human. And it hurts,” said Stewart Witt, general director of the Mojave air and space port.

Scaled Composites was founded by Bert Rothani and the company developed SpaceShipOne, an experimental rocket engine of a spacecraft that won the Ansari X-Prize competition in 2004. Scaled Composites in Scaled is currently developing a spacecraft for Virgin Galactic, which is owned by Northrop Grumman.

According to Stuart Whitt, SpaceShipTwo undocked from its WhiteKnightTwo spacecraft carrier at about 10:10 am Pacific Daylight Time. During the undock, nothing suspicious was found, but after a while the connection with the crew of SpaceShipTwo disappeared. “At about 10:12 am (morning) we learned that there was a problem and entered a pre-planned rapid response plan,” says Witt.

The wreckage of the spacecraft was found 25 miles north of the port of Mojave aviation and cosmonautics, which is located about 90 miles north of Los Angeles.

It was the first controlled test flight of SpaceShipTwo, after a successful supersonic flight in January. Virgin Galactic, owned by British entrepreneur Richard Branson, hopes to start launching space tourists on suborbital flights (altitude about 62 miles) by next year. To date, about 800 people have reserved their trips aboard SpaceShipTwo. The cost of one such flight is about $ 250,000.

"Our thoughts are now on the crew members and their families, and we will do everything we can," said George Whitesides, general manager of Virgin Galactic. "Space exploration is a difficult and dangerous process and today was a difficult day. We are going to launch an investigation to find out what happened today and prevent this from happening in the future."

According to George Whitesides, Virgin Galactic CEO Richard Branson is on his way to the Mojave from the UK to be with Virgin Galactic and Scaled Composites during the investigation.

In May, Scaled Composites decided to change the fuel formula for the hybrid rocket engine used in SpaceShipTwo. Although some experts view this as a version of the explosion of a spacecraft, Mickey stressed that it is too early to draw any conclusions. "We used a rocket engine, which was thoroughly tested on the ground and passed a series of tests, so we did not expect any problems with the engine today," he said in response to questions from journalists. "It was a new fuel formula that has been tested many times on the ground."

This is the second hit for NASA’s private space industry this week. On Tuesday, Orbital Sciences’s Antares rocket exploded shortly after launch. The rocket was supposed to deliver 2, 5 tons of provisions, equipment and materials for the experiment to the International Space Station under a $ 1, 9 billion contract with NASA. Currently under investigation incident.

These events serve as a reminder that the study of outer space is a rather complicated process. While these incidents are a blow to the burgeoning commercial space flight industry, Witt called on the commercial space flight sector to “keep heading”.

"This business is a worthy business. It is not so easy. If it were easy, it would not be interesting to me or any of my colleagues," he said.

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