Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo crashes during test flight

It's the second spaceflight crash this week, though the first with pilots on board. 


Taylor Hatmaker


Published Oct 31, 2014   Updated May 30, 2021, 7:17 am CDT

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.

Thoughts with all @virgingalactic & Scaled, thanks for all your messages of support. I’m flying to Mojave immediately to be with the team.

— Richard Branson (@richardbranson) October 31, 2014

PHOTOS: Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo accident

— ABC7 Eyewitness News (@ABC7) October 31, 2014

RT @ABC7: #SpaceShipTwo UPDATE: Rescue crew seen carrying person on stretcher to chopper

— Emily Lakdawalla (@elakdawalla) October 31, 2014

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.

#SpaceShipTwo and WhiteKnightTwo earlier today. Both are airborne now. Photo: Scaled Composites / Jason DiVenere

— Virgin Galactic (@virgingalactic) October 31, 2014

#SpaceShipTwo has been released by WhiteKnightTwo, and is now flying freely for the 35th time.

— Virgin Galactic (@virgingalactic) October 31, 2014

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

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*First Published: Oct 31, 2014, 4:12 pm CDT