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A Virgin Galactic tourism spacecraft crashed in the California desert during a test flight Friday, killing one test pilot and leaving another seriously injured, the Associated Press reports.
“We will work closely with relevant authorities to determine the cause of this accident and provide updates ASAP,” the company said in a tweet.
A witness told the AP that SpaceShipTwo, which is carried aloft by a separate aircraft called White Knight Two, exploded shortly after detaching from its carrier craft and igniting its rockets. Virgin Galactic has been testing the aircraft, known as SpaceShipTwo, in the Southern California desert. Local officials from the Kern County Fire Department and the California Highway Patrol both responded to the incident. Local news helicopter footage of the scene showed debris clearly from SpaceShipTwo littering the test area.
Virgin Galactic recently changed SpaceShipTwo’s fuel mixture from a rubber-based solution to a plastic mix, but it’s unclear if that switch had anything to do with Friday’s incident.
The SpaceShipTwo incident follows Tuesday’s loss of an unmanned Orbital Sciences (ORB) Antares rocket shortly after liftoff from Virginia’s Wallops Flight Facility.