A passenger spaceship developed by Virgin Galactic for space tourism crashed during a test flight in California on Friday, killing the pilot. A second pilot was seriously injured.
The spaceship was being developed by the Richard Branson-owned company for space tourism, and was taking its first test flight since January near the Mojave Air and Space Port in California, when it came crashing down and disintegrated into two pieces, according to Reuters.
While one pilot died, the second pilot had ejected before the crash with a parachute and landed almost a mile away from the debris. He, however, faced serious injuries. Both pilots worked for Scaled Composites, a subsidiary to Northrop Grumman Corp, which designed the spacecraft.
More than 800 people have reportedly already put down deposits to take a flight on the spacecraft, each ride costing $250,000. Celebrities such as Ashton Kutcher, Angelina Jolie and Lady Gaga were also on the list of fliers, according to Reuters.
The spacecraft, called SpaceShipTwo, faced trouble within two minutes after it separated from the jet airplane that ejected it for its high-altitude launch. The aircraft was using a new rocket fuel formula that had only been tested on the ground so far, Scaled Composites President Kevin Mickey said at a news conference.
"During the test, the vehicle suffered a serious anomaly resulting in the loss of SpaceShipTwo," Virgin Galactic said in a press statement.
Branson put out a series of tweets following the crash, stating that he would visit Mojave where the crash took place.
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
This is the second space launch accident to occur in the United States in a matter of days, after an unmanned rocket meant to take cargo to the International Space Station exploded minutes after liftoff earlier this week in Virginia.