Federal authorities probe spaceship crash


Federal agencies are investigating the crash of Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo rocket during a test flight Friday, which killed one of the craft's two pilots.

Both the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) are reportedly looking into the incident, which raises questions about the prospect of safely carrying tourists into space.

Virgin Galactic was founded by billionaire mogul Richard Branson, who was expected to arrive at the crash site about 120 miles north of Los Angeles on Saturday along with NTSB officials, according to The Associated Press.

The cause of the crash has not been reported. It took place during the 55th flight for SpaceShipTwo after the craft was released from its carrier at a high altitude.

One pilot parachuted out of the craft and was taken to the hospital. The other was found dead inside.

"Space is hard, and today was a tough day," Virgin Galactic CEO President George Whitesides said, according to the wire service. "The future rests in many ways on hard, hard days like this."

The company had hoped to transport tourists into space in 2007 but has faced a series of delays and setbacks.

Friday's death was not the first associated with SpaceShipTwo. Three workers were killed in 2007 during an explosion at a hanger where a rocket motor for the craft was being developed.