Virgin Galactic's SpaceshipTwo Crashes Following "In-Flight Anomaly" — UPDATE
UPDATE: After the SpaceshipTwo crashed Friday, leaving one pilot dead and one injured, NBC is reconsidering airing Space Race , a reality series in which contestants vie for the chance to travel into space via Richard Branson's spacecraft. The series, which is produced by Mark Burnett, was announced in October 2013.
EARLIER: Following an "in-flight anomaly," a Virgin Galactic spacecraft, SpaceshipTwo, crashed over California's Majave Desert According to the California Highway Patrol, one person has died, and one person has suffered injuries. The SpaceshipTwo is a spacecraft built for space tourism, able to fit hundreds of tourists willing to pay $250,000 to explore the air beyond the Earth. The SpaceshipTwo that crashed on Friday was carrying only two pilots after a test run — commercial flights on the spacecraft weren't scheduled to begin until 2015.
Witnesses, according to The Atlantic, report that the vessel "blew up." The Atlantic also reports that the SpaceshipTwo vessel crashed after it "separated from WhiteKnightTwo, the much larger aircraft that carries SS2 to high altitudes before engaging its rocket engine."
Though the latter landed without incident, the SpaceshipTwo was not able to stay afloat.
Though few details at this time are still known about what kind of "anomaly" caused the crash, Virgin Atlantic did release a statement to press:
Virgin Galactic's partner Scaled Composites conducted a powered test flight of #SpaceShipTwo earlier today. During the test, the vehicle suffered a serious anomaly resulting in the loss of SpaceShipTwo. WK2 landed safely. Our first concern is the status of the pilots, which is unknown at this time. We will work closely with relevant authorities to determine the cause of this accident and provide updates ASAP.
Obviously, the crash will bring up questions regarding the safety of commercial space exploration, especially since over 700 people have signed up to fly in the vessels. The National Transportation and Safety Board, however, issued a statement via its spokesperson, saying, "we are in the process of collecting information."
As is the FAA, which released a statement saying it was investigating the crash:
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.
According to NBC News, the SpaceshipTwo had begun testing a plastic-based fuel, switching from a rubber-based fuel, though it's unclear whether or not that contributed to the crash.
Meanwhile, on social media, we're starting to see photos of the crash of the plane, which took off from the Mojave Air and Space Port in California: