Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo Explodes over Mohave Desert

Launch of Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo. Image-Virgin Galactic
Launch of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo. Image-Virgin Galactic

The space industry was met with another mishap for the second time this week,when Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo tourism vehicle exploded in midair over the Mojave Desert Friday.

Witnesses report the rocket exploded after release from the jet that carried it aloft, and a short time after igniting its own rocket motor. One person, one of the pilots, died in the explosion, the other parachuted to earth, suffering major injuries. The rocket had not been fired in nine months, the craft had not been up since January.

The 60 foot spacecraft, built to seat six passengers, and designed as the first such spacecraft in a line that would take customers to the edge of space, was a Virgin Galactic craft owned by Englishman Sir Richard Branson. This was the 55th test flight for the aircraft said the company.

SpaceShipTwo as it falls away from it launch vehicle. Image-Virgin Galactic
SpaceShipTwo as it falls away from it launch vehicle. Image-Virgin Galactic

More than 800 people have signed up for a flight on the space vehicle, paying over $200,000 apiece to fly on the craft for ten minutes at an altitude of 60 miles above the planet.

The aircraft that carried the experimental spaceship aloft, the White Knight Two, landed safely without incident.

This is the second such space-based incident this week, on Tuesday, the Antares rocket launched by Orbital Sciences, exploded over Coastal Virginia after launch that morning. That unmanned craft was re-supplying the Space Station.