It's been a bad week for spaceflight. On Tuesday night, an unmanned Antares rocket carrying more than 5,000 pounds of cargo to the International Space Station exploded in Virginia.
Then on Friday, a Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo spacecraft crashed in the Mojave desert. Virgin Galactic was tweeting live updates from the test flight, when the company posted, "#SpaceShipTwo has experienced an in-flight anomaly. Additional info and statement forthcoming." One of the pilots is dead and the other is seriously injured, according to CNN.
The cause of the crash is not known. Here is the official statement from the Federal Aviation Administration:
Just after 10 a.m. PDT today, ground controllers at the Mojave Spaceport lost contact with SpaceShipTwo, an experimental space flight vehicle. The incident occurred over the Mojave Desert shortly after the space flight vehicle separated from WhiteKnightTwo, the vehicle that carried it aloft. Two crew members were on board SpaceShipTwo at the time of the incident. WhiteKnightTwo remained airborne after the incident. The FAA is investigating.
Virgin Galactic had paused spaceflights for much of this year. The company's last test flight took place on Jan. 2nd, and in May, Virgin Galactic announced it was changing the solid fuel used in the hybrid rocket motor, according to CNET. And as of Oct. 19, the company had not conducted a test flight with the new fuel. As the FAA begins its investigation, there is no indication that the new fuel was connected to the crash.
Virgin Galactic released a statement via Twitter.
UPDATE:Virgin Galactic's partner Scaled Composites conducted a powered test flight of #SpaceShipTwo earlier today. (1 of 4)— Virgin Galactic (@virgingalactic) October 31, 2014
Virgin Galactic is Richard Branson's private space company, started in 2004, that is planing to sell trips in which passengers fly about 62 miles above Earth on a SpaceShipTwo. The spacecraft is designed to carry two pilots and six passengers.
According to Virgin Galactic's tweets, this was the 35th test flight for the spacecraft. It seems that after it was released by WhiteKnightTwo and then experienced problems. The spacecraft landed in the Mojave desert, which is where it originally took off.
To book a flight on a Virgin Galactic flight, customers would pay $250,000. Thus far, 700 people have signed up for a flight, including Ashton Kutcher, Russell Brand, Angelina Jolie, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Stephen Hawking.