Virgin Galactic spaceship crashes during California test flight

Profile picture for user 27vet

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9 years 11 months

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This is certainly not a good week for aviation. One fatality and one injury. R.I.P. http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/10/31/us-space-crash-virgin-idUSKBN0IK24220141031
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Not good news ,thoughts to all involved and condolences to the bereaved.

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Here some short extract of the unfolding of events:
Today's test had been delayed by weather for some three hours. After a 45 minute climb to 50,000 feet attached to WhiteKnightTwo, SpaceShipTwo was released for its test flight. The accident occurred not long after release.
Stuart Witt, chief executive of the space port, recounted observing what appeared to be the plume from the initial firing of the spacecraft's rocket as it was released from the mothership, an indication that engine ignition had been achieved.
[...] the first sign of a malfunction came 90 seconds to two minutes after the carrier jet released the spacecraft, which occurred at 10:10 a.m. local time. [...] I wasn't hearing anything that I became concerned. And I looked over at my colleague, and then there was a radio call, something about a chute."

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Rocket plane's tail activated prematurely in fatal crash
NTSB's Hart told a news conference on Sunday investigators had determined that the spacecraft's 'feathering' tail system, designed to help slow its descent into the atmosphere from space, was supposed to have been released for deployment as the craft was traveling about 1.4 times the speed of sound. Instead, the feather began rotating when the rocket-powered vehicle was traveling at Mach 1, the speed of sound. Hart said the feathering tail system, which folds the vehicle in half aerodynamically to create more atmospheric drag, appeared from video footage to have been unlocked early by the co-pilot. About two seconds later, the space plane’s tail section began to rotate. "I'm not stating that this is the cause of the mishap. We have months and months of investigation to determine what the cause was," Hart said. Asked if pilot error was a possible factor, Hart said: "We are looking at all of these issues to determine what was the root cause of this mishap ... We are looking at a number of possibilities, including that possibility."
SpaceShipTwo’s propellant tanks and engine were recovered intact, indicating there was no explosion. "
Source: Reuters.com