A spacecraft for Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic Ltd. tourism operator crashed during a test flight in California’s Mojave Desert, and CNBC reported that one of two pilots was killed.
The second pilot was injured, according to CNBC, which cited local police. Television images today showed pieces of wreckage from Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo on the desert floor. Mojave Air & Space Port, where Virgin Galactic flies its suborbital craft, scheduled a news conference for 5 p.m. New York time today.
“We will work closely with relevant authorities to determine the cause of this accident and provide updates ASAP,” Virgin Galactic said today in a message posted on its Twitter feed.
The accident is the second this week involving a commercial space venture, following the failed launch of an Orbital Sciences Corp. rocket on Oct. 28 on a supply mission to the International Space Station. Orbital’s rocket didn’t carry any astronauts.
Branson said last month that Virgin Galactic was targeting its first commercial flight in spring 2015, with the billionaire and his son to be aboard for the initial launch. That reflected a change from his initial timetable for operations this year. He said at the time that almost 800 would-be space tourists had signed up for $250,000 trips.
–With assistance from Christopher Jasper in London.