Friday, October 31, 2014

Virgin Galactic Spaceship Crashes, Dealing Serious Blow to Richard Branson's Dream for Space Tourism

One of my first thoughts was that Branson's plans for space travel were set back a decade at least.

And that's the conclusion at the Los Angeles Times, "Debris spread over miles after Virgin Galactic spaceship explodes":

Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo, part of an ambitious commercial space venture founded by British billionaire Richard Branson, crashed during testing Friday and broke into several pieces over the Mojave Desert. One test pilot was killed and another was injured.

"Space is hard and today was a tough day," said George Whitesides, the CEO of Virgin Galactic. “The future rests in many ways on hard, hard days like this. But we believe we owe it to the folks who were flying these vehicles … to move forward, which is what we'll do.”

The news of the second catastrophic accident in a week has sent tremors throughout the burgeoning commercial space industry and is sure to create questions about its future.

Two pilots were aboard SpaceShipTwo, company and FAA officials confirmed. According to the California Highway Patrol, one of the pilots was able to eject and parachute out of the aircraft before being airlifted to a hospital.  The other pilot was killed in the crash. Their names have not been released.

The WhiteKnightTwo aircraft, which carries the SpaceShipTwo, landed safely. National Transportation Safety Board investigators were on their way to the site, which the Kern County Sheriff said was spread over five debris fields over a two- to three-mile area.

The rocket plane was using a new fuel formulation, said Kevin Mickey, CEO of Scaled Composites, which conducted Friday's test flight.

The new fuel mixture had been “tested and proven on the ground many times,” he said.

Virgin Galactic has engaged in a nearly decade-long endeavor to produce the world's first commercial space liner, which would make several trips a day carrying scores of paying customers into space for a brief journey...
Keep reading.

And see the Wall Street Journal, "Virgin Galactic Spacecraft Crashes, Killing One: Accident Raises Further Questions About Future of Space Tourism."