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Tragic crash leaves Virgin Galactic undeterred 07.11.14

BBC: Investigators have yet to identify exact cause of crash

At a few minutes after 10am US Pacific time on Friday October 31st, the Virgin aircraft SpaceShipTwo broke apart over California’s Mojave Desert. The pilot, Peter Siebold, was able to parachute out in time, but his co-pilot Michael Alsbury died in the subsequent crash.

Investigators believe the cause of the craft’s disintegration was the untimely activation of the so-called ‘feathering system’, which ensures the ship adopts the correct position for re-entry.

Data collected from the ship has led the US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) to announce SpaceShipTwo broke apart just two seconds after the feathering system was deployed. While video footage reveals the co-pilot Michael Alsbury unlocked the system earlier than expected, there is no evidence to suggest the subsequent deployment was a result of human error.

“This is not a statement of cause but rather a statement of fact,” said acting NTSB chairman Christopher Hart. “There is much more that we don’t know, and our investigation is far from over.”

Virgin Galactic issued a statement saying “We are continuing to build the second SpaceShipTwo (serial number two), which is currently about 65% complete and we will continue to advance our mission over the coming weeks and months.”

“With the guidance of the NTSB and the assurance of a safe path forward, we intend to move ahead with our testing program and have not lost sight of our mission to make space accessible for all.”

Read the full story from the BBC here