Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo crashes during test flight

Today on a routine test flight in California, Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo spacecraft suffered an “in-flight anomaly” resulting in the loss of the spaceplane. Details are still developing, but some reports indicate that at least two pilots were aboard SpaceShipTwo, though it’s possible that they ejected prior to the spaceplane’s demise. The Associated Press reports that the California Highway Patrol has confirmed one fatality and one “major injury” following the accident. Virgin founder Richard Branson announced that he is traveling to the scene.

SpaceShipTwo is the crown jewel of Virgin Galactic, a commercial spaceflight project helmed by billionaire Richard Branson. The spacecraft launches horizontally from a jet-powered Virgin Galactic aircraft known as WhiteKnightTwo. Whatever led to the space plan’s destruction appears to have arisen after SpaceShipTwo successfully separated from its launch craft at around 50,000 feet.

The test flight was reportedly carried out by Scaled Composites, one of Virgin Galactic’s contract partners. In 2007, another SpaceShipTwo test incident conducted at the Mojave Airport resulted in three fatalities. Earlier this week, an unmanned Orbital Sciences cargo craft exploded shortly after launch on its mission to resupply the International Space Station.

Photo via Virgin Galactic

Taylor Hatmaker

Taylor Hatmaker

Taylor Hatmaker has reported on the tech industry for nearly a decade, covering privacy and government. Most recently, she was the Debug editor of the Daily Dot. Prior to that, she was a staff writer and deputy editor at ReadWrite, a tech and business reporter for Yahoo News, and the senior editor of Tecca. Her editorial interests include censorship, digital activism, LGBTQ issues, and futurist consumer tech.