A Virgin Galactic test flight today had to be ended prematurely when the spacecraft's rocket motor wouldn't ignite. The ship descended safely to its landing site in southern New Mexico.
The hour-long flight was to be the first rocket-powered trip to space from Virgin Galactic's headquarters at Spaceport America, where the aircraft carrying the spacecraft took off at about 8:25 a.m., reports Associated Press:
The spacecraft's engine is supposed to ignite moments after the craft is released from a special carrier jet, sending it in a near-vertical climb toward the edge of space.
"After being released from its mothership, the spaceship's onboard computer that monitors the rocket motor lost connection," CEO Michael Colglazier said in a statement. "As designed, this triggered a fail-safe scenario that intentionally halted ignition of the rocket motor."
The pilots flew back to Spaceport America and landed gracefully as usual.
"As we do with every test flight, we are evaluating all the data, including the root cause assessment of the computer communication loss," Colglazier said. "We look forward to sharing information on our next flight window in the near future."