Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo rocket crash: US officials begin investigation

The investigation in the first commercial spaceship Virgin Galactic crash was begun on Sunday to find out why the rocket crashed on a test flight.

By Irengbam Jenny | Last Updated: Nov 02, 2014, 13:22 PM IST
Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo rocket crash: US officials begin investigation

Zee Media Bureau/Irengbam Jenny

Los Angeles: The investigation in the first commercial spaceship Virgin Galactic crash began on Sunday to find out why the rocket crashed on a test flight.

Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo rocket crashed during a test flight over California on Friday, scattering debris over the desert and leaving one pilot dead.

British billionaire and Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson said he is determined to find out what went wrong and learn from the tragedy, reports said.

Just after the take off when the space rocket exploded, co-pilot named Michael Alsbury died on the spot.

Peter Siebold, the pilot who survived, suffered moderate to major injuries as said by the local police.

Scaled Composites, the company both pilots worked for, said Mr Siebold, 43, was "alert and talking with his family and doctors".

A team of National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) arrived in Mojave on Saturday.

Christopher Hart, NTSB acting chairman said that the team is expected to be at the crash site for four to seven days. He added that the full investigation could take up to 12 months to complete.

Virgin Galactic would be free to conduct further flights during that time, he further added.

Virgin Group founder Sir Richard speaking at the Mojave Air and Space Port, where the craft was being developed said that nobody underestimates the risks involved in space travel.

In 2015 the company had hoped to launch itself commercially. Sir Richard was pledging to travel on the first flight and more than 700 flight bookings at $250,000 (£156,000) each was already taken.

"We owe it to our test pilots to find out what went wrong, and once we find out, if we can overcome it, we will make sure that the dream lives on," Sir Richard added.

A team of between 13 and 15 NTSB investigators - including specialists in structures, systems, engines and vehicle performance - are taking part in the inquiry.

Mr Christopher Hart said the initial examination of the debris, which was scattered over an area measuring five miles from end to end, indicated there was an "in-flight break-up", Mr Christopher Hart said.

Police had initially secured the crash site in the Mojave Desert, north-east of Los Angeles, amid fears that some of the debris could be explosive.

(With Agency inputs)