Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo crashed during a test flight friday, resulting in the death of one of its two crewmembers. After early reports surfaced on Twitter, California Highway Patrol confirmed the fatality, and Virgin Galactic confirmed that it had lost the flight. The second crewmember was seriously injured and airlifted to hospital.
Virgin Galactic announced on its feed that an "anomaly" occurred six minutes after it was released from its mothership, WhiteKnightTwo, over the Mojave Desert.
The Associated Press reported that witnesses saw it "explode in flight after ignition of rocket."
Wreckage and at least one parachute were observed on the ground, via a live feed posted by ABC News 23, which sent a helicopter to the scene. Two parachutes were seen by onlookers, according to reports, and one of the crewmembers is said to have also been seen alive on the ground.
Stephen Clark, of Spaceflightnow.com, writes that it was the 55th flight of SpaceShipTwo and its 35th free flight: "It was the fourth time SpaceShipTwo had fired up its rocket motor in flight, and the first powered mission since Virgin Galactic and Scaled Composites, the craft’s builder, switched from a rubber-based propellant to a plastic-based fuel mix."
SpaceShipTwo's design would let it carry six passengers and two pilots on trips to the edge of space, with hundreds of reservations already taken for the $250,000 ride. Virgin Galactic boss Richard Branson had hoped to see the earliest flights next year. The Mojave Air and Spaceport is 60 miles south of Bakersfield, California.