Richard Branson’s dream of a sub-orbital spaceship Virgin Galactic failed in its maiden test flight on Friday near the Mojave Desert, 95 miles (150km) north of Los Angeles in California, killing one pilot and injuring another seriously.
IThe fatal space liftoff came after a fatal crash of another private space venture Orbital Sciences Corp space vehichle with 5000 pounds of payload destined for the International Space Station on Tuesday.
The Virgin Galactic crash saw one pilot killed and the other who ejected himself survived but with serious injuries, said
Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood. The spaceship was built by a Northrop Gruman Corp subsidiary Scaled Composites.
Its President Kevin Mickey told a news conference the experiment to use a new rocket fuel formula failed to take off, resulting in the accident. The National Transportation Safety Board said it would investigate the accident.
Branson expressed his grief via Twitter. “Thoughts with all @virgingalactic & Scaled, thanks for all your messages of support. I’m flying to Mojave immediately to be with the team.” he tweeted. Branson is expected to reach the crash site by Saturday.
It may be noted that more than 800 people have paid the deposit amount to Virgin space venture to fly aboard the spaceship, which is hauled to an altitude of about 45,000 feet (13.7kms) and to catapult it to about 62 miles (100km) above Earth, providing the passengers space travel experience and weighlessness for a few minutes.
“During the test, the vehicle suffered a serious anomaly resulting in the loss of SpaceShipTwo,” Virgin said in a statement after the crash. “We will work closely with relevant authorities to determine the cause of this accident and provide updates ASAP.”
Apart from Vrigin Galactic and Orbital Sciences Corp, XCOR Aerospace too is building a 2-seater space plane called Lynx, while Blue Origin, a space company owned by Amazon.com Inc founder Jeff Bezos is also in the fray.