Mojave Space Port blast kills 3 Scaled Composites employees

A third person died Thursday night from injuries suffered during the explosion of an experimental rocket fuel tank at Mojave Air and Space Port in the California desert. BoingBoing readers may recall this site as the location from which SpaceShipOne and other innovative, privately-financed craft have taken off in recent years.

"We don't know why it exploded," said Burt Rutan, the owner of Scaled Composites. "We just don't know."

Rutan was visibly distraught as he appeared in public for the first time Thursday night following the tragedy.

He said he still can't believe three of his employees are dead, and three others critically injured.

"We were doing a test that we believed was completely safe… which is why we don't remove the people from the area like we do on a rocket test," said Rutan.

Link to KGET item, here's an LAT report. In related news, Northrop Grumman recently announced that it will acquire Scaled Composites: Link to July 21 item, which stated that "the acquisition will not affect the ongoing development of SpaceShipTwo, a suborbital commercial passenger spacecraft, for space tourism company Virgin Galactic." (thanks, ginohn).

Previously on BoingBoing:

  • Xeni on NPR: report from SpaceShipOne launch at Mojave
  • X-37 first flight at Mojave (on SpaceShipOne's anniversary)
  • Alan Radecki's photos of X Prize event and Mojave airport