Help Shape the Future of Space Exploration

Join The Planetary Society Now  arrow.png

Join our eNewsletter for updates & action alerts

    Please leave this field empty

Jason Davis headshot v.3

[Update 1] Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo Destroyed in Testing Accident, 1 Dead, 1 Injured

Posted by Jason Davis

31-10-2014 14:25 CDT

Topics: commercial spaceflight, human spaceflight

Virgin Galactic's private spaceplane SpaceShipTwo has been destroyed in an accident over California's Mojave Desert, killing one test pilot and injuring the second. It was the 35th free flight and fourth powered flight of the vehicle, which was being tested in preparation to take tourists and scientists on short suborbital space trips from Spaceport America in New Mexico. Friday's test originated from the Mojave Air and Space Port in California. The names of the pilots, employed by Scaled Composites, have not been released.

According to officials at a Friday afternoon press conference, WhiteKnightTwo, the carrier aircraft, took off carrying SpaceShipTwo at 9:20 a.m. Friday. SpaceShipTwo was released at 10:10 a.m. and entered powered flight shortly thereafter, at which point an anomoly occured that destroyed the vehicle.

It is not yet clear what caused the accident. At the press conference, Scaled Composites president Kevin Mickey confirmed the flight was the first to substitute a plastic-based solid fuel for the motor's previous rubber-based compound. "This was a new fuel formulation. It had been proven and tested on the ground many times."

Planetary Society CEO Bill Nye released a statement in response to the accident.

Here is a statement from the FAA:

Just after 10 a.m. PDT today, ground controllers at the Mojave Spaceport lost contact with SpaceShipTwo, an experimental space flight vehicle. The incident occurred over the Mojave Desert shortly after the space flight vehicle separated from WhiteKnightTwo, the vehicle that carried it aloft. Two crew members were on board SpaceShipTwo at the time of the incident. WhiteKnightTwo remained airborne after the incident. The FAA is investigating.

Like the loss of Antares, this private spaceflight accident is drawing national media attention. The Planetary Society will follow the situation as the story develops. Here are some trusted news sources with early reports:

And here are some recent Tweets from Virgin Galactic: 

See other posts from October 2014


Or read more blog entries about: commercial spaceflight, human spaceflight


mrtwizter: 10/31/2014 05:35 CDT

Virgin should speak to Elon Musk and maybe use one of the re entry 3D printed liquid fuelled rockets used on the dragon capsule

Bob Ware: 10/31/2014 07:14 CDT

My prayers go out to the affected people and their families.

Leave a Comment:

You must be logged in to submit a comment. Log in now.
Facebook Twitter Email RSS AddThis

Blog Search

Planetary Defense

An asteroid or comet headed for Earth is the only large-scale natural disaster we can prevent. Working together to fund our Shoemaker NEO Grants for astronomers, we can help save the world.


Featured Images

LightSail 2 and Prox-1
Bill Nye at LightSail 2 pre-ship review
LightSail 2 pre-ship review team photo
Swirling maelstrom
More Images

Featured Video

Class 9: Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune

Watch Now

Space in Images

Pretty pictures and
awe-inspiring science.

See More

Join The Planetary Society

Let’s explore the cosmos together!

Become a Member

Connect With Us

Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and more…
Continue the conversation with our online community!