back to article Virgin's SpaceShipTwo crashes in Mojave Desert during test flight

Richard Branson's commercial space company Virgin Galactic suffered a serious setback on Friday when a test flight of its SpaceShipTwo aircraft crashed during the testing of its rocket motor. SpaceShipTwo crash This doesn't look good "Virgin Galactic’s partner Scaled Composites conducted a powered test flight of …

  1. Oninoshiko

    While I may have seemed callus with the rocket issues earlier, that was only because noone was on them. This is much more serious, and I certainly hope the pilots ejected safely.

    1. Oninoshiko

      1 fatality, 1 injury

      My heartfelt condolences to the family of the pilot who lost his life.

      May the surviving pilot recover quickly.

    2. NoneSuch Silver badge

      My thoughts to the families of the two pilots.

    3. JCitizen

      Pilot error...

      (or co-pilot) The news has said. I'd never live that down if I survived the crash! :^(

  2. Neil Barnes Silver badge


    One pilot dead and one injured, according to a BBC report.

  3. JohnMurray

    One dead, the other seriously injured.

  4. Dave 32

    1 Fatality

    Latest news indicates one fatality and one injury. :-(


  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Heart goes out to the families and friends involved.

  6. FuzzyTheBear

    Dead pilot

    It's a shame .. condolences to the family and colleagues of the lost pilot.

    Extreme research has it's price tag. Looking forward has a price tag , I wish everyone involved with the project best of luck . God bless .

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Lets hope that this little setback doesn't put Sir Richard off.

    I for one would truly miss the opportunity to listen to all the anecdotes from the Millionares, Billionaires and Mega Rich Celebs on their return from the edge of space. Has BONO booked a ticket yet?

    1. Rik Myslewski

      Re: Lets hope that this little setback doesn't put Sir Richard off.

      You callous bastard — we're talking one dead and one seriously injured, and all you can do is make snot-nosed, puerile jokes. Shithead — anonymously cowardly shithead, to boot.

      1. Elmer Phud

        Re: Lets hope that this little setback doesn't put Sir Richard off.

        The real callous bastard - Branson - will use this as some sort of advert- he can sniff money.

  8. Mark 85 Silver badge

    A sad day, indeed.

    We can bang about over the Antares but no one was injured or killed. This is terrible that one was killed and one seriously injured in pushing the envelope of space.

    A risky business this but I know that if I'd ever had the chance, I'd go in a minute.

  9. Vic

    Crap :-(

    Dave Mckay is a friend of a friend. He had very positive things to say about this project.

    Losing a TP is never good news, but let's hope the second[1] pulls through,


    [1] I've no idea yet which pilot is dead,

  10. Stevie


    Terrible news indeed. My condolences go out to the family of the lost pilot, and my best wishes for a speedy and full recovery to the injured crewmember.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    True pioneers.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge


      Pioneers == Those who come back to tell the tale.

  12. Rabbit80

    Sad day :(

    However - without this kind of testing and pushing the boundaries of what is possible we would never hope to leave the earth. Kudos to the pilots and Virgin for their bravery and we can only hope that this test results in safer space travel in years to come.

    To make mistakes is part of the learning process - it is essential that Virgin are open about what went wrong so everybody else can learn and not make the same mistake.

    If Virgin want test pilots, I would volunteer in a heartbeat - as I am sure many others would.. Risk like this is worth it for the rest of the human race. A tragedy, but worth it in my opinion. I know that sounds callus, but look at the early pioneers of flight, or the formula one drivers of yesteryear - without them pushing the boundaries of technology we would be decades behind. Natural disasters wipe out more every year than all technological experiments combined.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Well, unfortunately, testing new craft does involve risk.

    My thoughts are with the family of the dead pilot.

    You can criticize Branson's space venture all you want as a diversion for the bored rich, but the fact is that the initial steps to offering large-scale access to earth orbit are going to be so expensive that only the rich or national space programs can afford it. I choose to believe that someday that will change.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Well, unfortunately, testing new craft does involve risk.

      Dream on son. Remember CONCORDE? That Tax Payer funded project that was supposed to bring SUPERSONIC travel to the masses, well it didn't pan out like that did it son?

      If you want a glimpse in to future that Sir Richard Branson and his like are taking you to, then watch Elysium!

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

        Re: Well, unfortunately, testing new craft does involve risk.

        If you want a glimpse in to future that Sir Richard Branson and his like are taking you to, then watch Elysium!

        Anyone who thinks Elysium is some True Message Against Rampant Capitalism has any lesson beyond Hollywood retardation and Matt Damon's pseudo-social arsehattery should have his head examined pronto.

    2. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: Well, unfortunately, testing new craft does involve risk.

      Fortunately, Branson has in the past been willing to risk his own life pushing envelopes. Now he is risking his own and investors money to develop something that hopefully will have a recognisable ROI within his lifetime by selling joyrides into near space to the wealthy , if not then he will have the satisfaction of knowing that he has contributed to humanities efforts to to go further in the universe.

      If enough wealthy people go it will help to make space even more commonplace while on each and every trip adding a little to the knowledge and experience necessary to go out into the solar system and beyond.

      I am sure he will feel the loss of one pilot and the injury of the other very strongly.

      I wish the survivor and the families of the pilots all the best.

      Pioneers often pay the ultimate price for what they do but they leave behind them a legacy for all of us.

  14. hplasm

    A sad day.

    Following on from the loss of Antares, the very sad loss of a test pilot for Virgin.

    My thoughts are with his family, the survivor and his kin, and with Mr Branson, and his staff who I know will feel this deeply.

    Honour goes to those who put themselves forward to see what lies over the horizon.

    The list of the brave has sadly gained another name on the Wall of remembrance.

    Ad astra per ardua.

    No-one ever said it would be easy. Sometimes it can be very hard indeed.

  15. Simon Ball

    "In May, the design of the rocket was changed and successful test burns of a new thermoplastic polyamide fuel were completed"

    Test BURNS? Would it be extremely cynical of me to ask just how many UNMANNED test FLIGHTS of this new propellant formulation were conducted before this horrible accident?

    1. ecofeco Silver badge

      Cynical? No, not really. It's a valid question.

      But this IS rocket science and things do go wrong no matter how mow many times you test and improve because it IS still the bleeding edge of applied science.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A test pilot barely alive

    With the money that Branson has at his disposal, so I'm sure he can spare $6 mil so they could make him stronger, faster, better than he was before...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: A test pilot barely alive

      I can see the funny side of things Anon, but be prepared for the torrent of 'Down Votes' that you're going to get from the faithful.

      UP vote from me.

    2. Martin Budden Silver badge

      Re: A test pilot barely alive

      Too soon?

      Nah, we need a little black humour now and then to stay sane.

  17. i like crisps

    Black Box

    Was the aircraft fitted with a flight recorder? If not, why?

    1. imanidiot Silver badge

      Re: Black Box

      Most likely it was fitted with about a gazillion data loggers. They were conducting test flights on the new engine after all.

      My heartfelt condolances to the family of the deceased pilot and best wishes to the pilot and his family who is still alive. Lets hope he pulls through swiftly.

    2. i like crisps

      Re: Black Box

      down voted for asking a question, wow.

      1. Richard 12 Silver badge

        Re: Black Box

        'Cos it's a test flight.

        Test flights are filled to the gunnels with data recorders measuring and recording (and often transmitting in real-time) anything and everything that can be reasonably measured. They're more fragile (and a heck of a lot more expensive) than black boxes, but the storage media should survive.

        They aren't going to speculate on the causes until they've recovered as much of it as possible and had time to analyse what happened.

        Equally, there won't be any more test flights until they've done that and figured out how to reduce the probability of it happening again.

        A "black box" records absolutely nothing in comparison.

        1. MrT

          Re: Black Box

          So much data that this is why they're saying it'll take a year to fully investigate.

          There are also three cameras on WhiteKnight and IIRC 6 on SS2, including one looking across from the port tailfin to the rocket motor. Hopefully all the devices on SS2 that record and store in situ can be recovered.

  18. phil dude

    still risky...

    No matter the upbeat blanket we get from the media about how straightforward these activities are, using any amount of explosive, toxic or unstable materials with very complex machinery, always has the chance of disaster.

    Condolences to the family of the pilot who perished, and best wishes for a recovery for the one that survived.


    1. Martin-73

      Re: still risky...

      Agreed, the media tend not to cover things like this other than in 'and another one was successfully launched, and now, a dancing dog'; thus the public get convinced this space thing is simple.

      Antares and now this even more unfortunate incident remind us that it's not plain sailing, not by a long chalk. As others have said, say what you like about Virgin, at least they're pushing the envelope. Most of our advances are due in large part to people like the two pilots who are prepared to take risks that the majority would shun, I am grateful to them.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: still risky...

        Yes Martin, but would Tom Hanks be prepared to take that risk? Virgin Galactics shareholders are probably thinking about that one right now.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Tragic of course

    But this is expected to happen in space pioneering.

    It happened to NASA. Now it happens to the independent corporations.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Tragic of course

      Nasa have lost a few complete crews on non test flights

      Did anyone tell them to stop

      Oh no cos it's Government money not private rich peoples so the commentards would be less sarcastic and jealous

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Insurance Premiums...

    Can you get insurance for space travel? If so, then i bet Sir Dickies have just gone up.......don't get upset, these things matter.

    1. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: Insurance Premiums...

      As a matter of fact, yes you can get space travel insurance.

      If fact, you cannot launch anything without it.

      1. i like crisps

        Re: Insurance Premiums...

        What, not even a boat?

        Sorry, ICON 4 me.

      2. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

        Re: Insurance Premiums...

        > If fact, you cannot launch anything without it.

        OH REALLY? Citation needed. Will an irate insurance agent follow you to orbit?

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    My thoughts and condolences to the families.

    I wonder if short cuts were taken or extra pressures made by management to deliver. A lot of places have been pre-booked for sometime now. I truly hope not!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: My thoughts and condolences to the families.

      Interesting, it could morph from a minor tragedy into a full blown scandal.....hmmm.

  22. Kharkov


    While I have been snarky about VG in the past, I'm pretty sad that this has happened. My sympathies to the family of the dead pilot and my hopes for a speedy and full recovery to the surviving pilot. I even hope that Virgin Galactic gets back on their feet

  23. stuartnz

    A different perspective

    And one I enjoyed reading - not something I say often about a Wired article:

    Space Tourism Isn’t Worth Dying For

    1. Chris G Silver badge

      Re: A different perspective

      A quite well written article right up to "We go when there’s something there." That was the point where the writer shows his lack of perspective and real thought about pioneers.

      Often they (pioneers) go because they don't know what is there but it could be useful, interesting,amazing or whatever. Pioneering is looking for something new, not always something profitable or necessarily safe.

      What Branson is doing may be for the rich initially but it will help to make space travel more common place and thus eventually cheaper; cheaper means more often and more often means the technology becomes more reliable and refined.

      I remember far enough back to when anyone 'rich ' enough to travel in a jet was not so common place. Where do you think the phrase 'Jet set' comes from ?

      Now Joe Bloggs can travel on a jet to his annual puke fest for less than a day's wages but in the early days it was almost comparable to renting you own jet now ( 12 seater about €2500/hr).

      I think Branson can be a bit of a pratt sometimes but VG is a vision that will contribute to the race moving forward.

  24. Katie Saucey


    No matter what happened, progress will be had, unfortunately these guys+families are paying for it.

  25. Elmer Phud

    Space Ship?

    Since when did it even have plans to go into space?

    1. Richard 12 Silver badge

      Re: Space Ship?

      It was intended to go to space.

      Just not stay there.

  26. Malmesbury

    A deeply flawed project

    The reason for the massive delays for this project were issues with the hybrid rocket motors.


    This was published *before* the accident by a guy who's followed this program for years.

    The short version - the engine ran very, very rough. Also inefficiently - to the point there were doubts about getting to space.

    They'd just changed to a nylon based fuel in the hopes of an improvement. Also added were systems to inject helium and methane to control the burn.

    I believe that as part of the investment deal with Aabar Investments (Abu Dabi's government investment fund) they had to demonstrate a flight to space before the end of 2014. Or return a big chunk of money.

  27. John Jennings Silver badge

    Current thinking is that the feathering system is at fault. The idea of the engine burning rough is not discounted (perhaps the engine cut out, feathering deployed, and engine spontaneously restarted??)

    I doubt if the feathered wings would withstand thrust when the engine fires....

    Aparently the engine was recovered intact - might tell something.

    Dunno if the pilot must deploy feathering or its automatic?

    Probably wont know for sure for some time...

    1. JCitizen

      To add to that..

      The US press is saying that it was pilot error and not part of the proper test procedure.

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