FAA probes fatal spaceship explosion

The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating an explosion involving an “experimental space flight vehicle” owned by British company Virgin Galactic that killed at least one person in California on Friday afternoon. 

“Just after 10 a.m. PDT today, ground controllers at the Mojave Spaceport lost contact with SpaceShipTwo, an experimental space flight vehicle,” the agency said in a statement. “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.” 

One death and one injury have been attributed to the accident thus far, according to reports, though the identity of the deceased has not been released. 

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Virgin Galactic said Friday the accident was the result of a “serious anomaly.” 

“Virgin Galactic’s partner Scaled Composites conducted a powered test flight of SpaceShipTwo earlier today,” the company said in a statement. “During the test, the vehicle suffered a serious anomaly resulting in the loss of the vehicle. Our first concern is the status of the pilots, which is unknown at this time. We will work closely with the relevant authorities to determine the cause of the accident and provide updates as soon as we are able to do so.” 

California lawmakers expressed concern about the SpaceShipTwo accident on Friday afternoon. 

“My heart and prayers go out to the pilots of SpaceShipTwo and their families,” House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said in a statement. “Their courage and bravery to embark on missions that will lead towards expanding man’s reach into space exemplify the ingenuity and imagination of America. Today’s devastating crash is a reminder how fragile life is in these efforts. I am confident authorities and Virgin Galactic are working diligently to learn more about the circumstances surrounding this tragedy.”