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Old 01-11-14, 15:02   #1
 
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European Union VIDEOs- Virgin Spaceship Crash-Caused by Pilot Error?

Moment Virgin Galactic Spaceship Exploded at 45,000ft: One Pilot dead and Another Critical as Sir Richard Branson's $500m Space Tourism Plane Blows Up Testing New Fuel over California Desert

  • Space plane broke into pieces above Mojave Desert, California, on first flight using experimental rocket fuel
  • One pilot died in the crash, another parachuted out of falling plane but was seriously injured in the disaster
  • SpaceShipTwo plane had swapped rubber-based rocket fuel for a higher-performing plastic blend today
  • More than 700 people - including Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber and Katy Perry - have paid $250,000 for tickets
  • Witnesses who rushed to falling debris reported seeing dead pilot strapped into his seat with body parts missing
  • Virgin founder Richard Branson has sunk $500million into space company, which launched in 2004
  • Branson had previously said his company 'can't lose anybody' and be successful space flight operator
  • Neither pilot has been named. At least five people are cleared to fly the spacecraft - two have been confirmed safe
Daily Mail UK, 1 November 2014










Risk-taker: The unprecedented venture was dubbed 'classic Sir Richard Branson', tying neatly with the Virgin boss's notorious penchant for taking risks. But it has been marred by delays and set-backs since 2005





The experimental SpaceShipTwo came apart in mid-air (center)
-just after its engines started firing - the first time the plane had used a new plastic-based propellant.


Seconds before it had detached from the WhiteKnightTwo carrier plane, which lifts the spacecraft to cruising height before it blasts off to heights of around 60 miles above the earth's surface. But it had hardly gone any distance at all when an 'anomaly' ripped the hull apart and sent the wreckage (bottom right) plunging to the Mojave Desert below. One parachuted out and landed with serious injuries. He is now in hospital. The other died and was reportedly found still strapped into his seat surrounded by bits of plane.


The SpaceShipTwo plane, designed to run the first ever passenger flights into space, split into pieces and fell to earth two minutes after being launched mid-air from a carrier plane over California's Mojave Desert.

Wreckage rained from the sky as one pilot managed to eject from the ****pit using a parachute, while the other was reportedly left strapped to his seat as he plummeted to earth and died.
The pilot who ejected also suffered serious injuries and is now in hospital. Virgin has not yet said who the pilots were - though only four men were cleared by the FAA to pilot the craft.


Today's flight was the first time SpaceShipTwo had taken to the skies using a new, solid plastic fuel instead of the rubber-based propellant which powered earlier flights. Virgin founder Richard Branson is flying urgently to the scene of the accident.

Scroll down for videos






Fatal moment: The Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo plane is pictured above coming to pieces after a mid-air launch uses an experimental rocket fuel. It crashed to the ground in a remote region of California's Mojave Desert, killing one pilot and seriously injuring another




Fatal launch: SpaceShipTwo, left, is seen above moments after it detatched from WhiteKnightTwo, the twin-hulled airplane which carries the main vessel to 45,00ft before dropping it to make the sub-orbital space flight by itself




Pulling away: The rocket engine, using a new plastic-based polyamide fuel, can be seen starting to fire, right, as SpaceShipTwo streaks away from the carrier




Explosion: Fragments of the plane plummeted to earth after it started to break apart, white smoke pouring, in the fatal accident




Parts of the crashed spacecraft in the Mojave desert. SpaceShipTwo was flying under rocket power after being released from its carrier craft - then Virgin tweeted that it had 'experienced an in-flight anomaly.'




Two pilots were onboard, and authorities confirmed one was dead, with the second being taken to hospital in Lancaster with serious injuries aboard a helicopter (pictured)




Two pilots were onboard, and authorities confirmed one was dead, with the second being taken to hospital in Lancaster with serious injuries aboard a helicopter (pictured)




Pilots: It is not known who is was killed today. Rick 'CJ' Struckow (far left) is fine, a family friend told MailOnline. Another, Todd Ericson (not pictured) was confirmed alive by a relative on social media. The conditions of Peter Siebold (center right, arms folded), Michael Masucci and chief pilot David Mackay are not known


Onlookers saw at least one parachute from the craft, which has two crew members. One bystander, space blogger Doug Messier, raced to the wreckage and reportedly saw the dead pilot strapped into his seat, missing body parts.

In an interview uploaded to Youtube he told Space.com: '...

We drove out and found one of the debris areas, there was debris all - it had hit the edge of the road. there were pieces of the fuselage and pieces of debris on the road, and also in the brush all around.
'There was a seat with a body in it - I don't know who it was.
'I didn't get a look of it or come close to it for obvious reasons. There was a shoe, a boot with a foot in it on the road and parts of body.'

Virgin Galactic issued a statement saying:

'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 [which carries SpaceShipTwo into the air] 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.'

The company has yet to name either the pilot who died or the one who was injured. But two men who are registered as SpaceShipTwo pilots with the FAA have been confirmed alive and well by their families tonight.

Richard Branson immediately announced that he was flying to the Mojave to deal with the situation personally.
In a blog-post en route, he said: 'I am writing this as we refuel on one of the most difficult trips I have ever had to make. I will be in Mojave soon to join the Virgin Galactic and Scaled Composite teams involved in the SpaceShipTwo flight test program.
'Mojave is also where I want to be – with the dedicated and hard-working people who are now in shock at this devastating loss... We’ve always known that the road to space is extremely difficult - and that every new transportation system has to deal with bad days early in their history.'
He concluded: 'Space is hard - but worth it. We will persevere and move forward together.'





Decline and fall: How the plane climbed tens of thousands of feet before exploding and plummeting to earth






Emergency measures: Parachutes were seen amidst the wreckage in the Mojave, as senn in this image



Mojave Air CEO Confirms One Dead In Virgin Galactic Spaceship Flight





Before: Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo in an earlier, successful flight. All previous powered missions used a different rocket fuel






'Space is hard and today was a tough day': Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides discussed the difficulties of space flight in a press conference after the crash


Not long ago, Branson say saying that any fatalities in his space program could be bring it to a halt - unlike the efforts of NASA, which has lost many personnel.

Speaking in February, Branson said, 'Everybody who signs up knows this is the birth of a new space program and understands the risks that go with that.
'The biggest worry I had was re-entry. NASA has lost about 3 per cent of everyone who's gone into space, and re-entry has been their biggest problem.'
'For a government-owned company, you can just about get away with losing 3 per cent of your clients. For a private company you can't really lose anybody.'

In a press conference Friday afternoon, George Whitesides, chief executive of Virgin Galactic, said; ‘Our primary thoughts at the moment are with the crew and families and we are doing everything we can for them now.'
'Space is hard, and today was a tough day. The future rest on hard days like this.'

Stuart Witt, who is in charge of the Mojave Air and Space Port, where SpaceShipTwo was launched today, also remained optimistic about the future of space travel.

He said:
'Stay the course. This is not easy. If it was easy it would not be interesting to me and my colleagues standing next to me.'
‘We are doing this for you and your generation. It is a cause far greater than any one of us singularly. I compare it to the Magellan expedition [the first circumnavigation of the Earth].’

WhiteKnightTwo, the carrier plane, took off at 9:20am this morning, carrying SpaceShipTwo. Fifty minutes later, at 10:10am, it had reached cruising height and the vehicles detached. Just two minutes later, an 'in-flight anomaly' was reported, and the spacecraft fell to pieces, with fatal results.


Quote:
PLAYING WITH FIRE: SWITCH TO EXPERIMENTAL NEW FUEL TO SEND EXPLODED SPACE PLANE EVEN HIGHER

The fatal Virgin Galactic voyage today was the first time one of their space planes had been tested with a new, high-performing fuel.
SpaceShipTwo took off from the space port in the Mojave desert, California, tanked up with polyamide grain fuel - a type of solid plastic - rather than a rubber-based fuel which had powered all previous tests.
Earlier, successful flights, had used hydroxyl-terminated polybutadiene, or HTPB, as the main ingredient in the chemical mix for its sub-orbital journeys.
But Virgin Galactic announced in May that it was making the switch, with the hope that it could propel the plane to even greater heights.





Speaking at the time, Virgin Galactic CEO said: 'We made the decision to go with a polyamide, which is a fancy way of saying a type of plastic.
'Frankly, we had good performance from both of them, but as we look for the final range of test flights, we decided to go with the polyamide grain.'

Implying the switch would be straightforward, he said: 'It basically is the same cartridge. You just plug it in, and you connect the plumbing in a slightly different way.'

He added that it had tested better in several performance measures.





Burner: Pictured above is a Newton engine, also under development by Virgin Galactic. It doesn't use the polyamide fuel



Cars and emergency vehicles rushed to the remote desert spot to help at the crash site




Pet project: Richard Branson and SpaceShipTwo designer Burt Rutan are pictured above posing with a model of the spaceplane and its launching craft


The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), has launched an investigation into the crash.

A spokesman for the agency said:
'Just after 10am 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.'

Two pilots fly in SpaceShipTwo's ****pit during a test. They are equipped with parachutes, and after the anomaly, at least one chute was seen over desert.





Smashed: Two rescue workers investigate wreckage from the fuselage of the spaceplane







Celebrations: Pilots CJ Sturckow (left) and Michael Masucci, are soaked in celebration after an earlier test flight where SpaceShipTwo flew without turning on its engines. It is not clear which pilots were in the vessel today



SpaceShipTwo has four FAA approved pilots: Rick 'CJ' Sturckow, Michael Masucci, Todd 'Leif' Ericson and Peter Siebold. Chief pilot David Mackay could also have been flying.
But friends and family of Sturckow and Ericson have confirmed the men are fine - leaving fears for the others.
Sturckow, 53, is a former NASA pilot and was hired by Virgin Galactic in May 2013 after an illustrious career including 1,200 hours in space and lengthy military service. He was piloting WhiteKnighteTwo, which landed safely.
Along with Sturckow, 51-year-old Michael Masucci - known as 'Sooch' - works out of Virgin Galactic's Mojave, California, location to conduct flight training and testing. He joined the team in 2013.

Masucci, a retired U.S. Air Force (USAF) Lieutenant Colonel has more than 30 years of civilian and military operational and test flying experience and has logged more than 9,000 flying hours in 70 different types of airplanes and gliders.
Before joining Virgin Galactic, he served as a U-2 combat pilot in several operations and instructed at the USAF Test Pilot School, while also serving as a Branch Chief. As a U-2 test pilot he was instrumental in the development and testing of the aircraft's glass ****pit and power upgrade programs, according to AeroNews.
The married dad also worked for XOJET Inc., a private company based in Brisbane, California where he captained a Citation X, a business jet aircraft.





SpaceShip2 coming in for a safe landing during a previous run





Branson christening the WhiteKnightTwo, which landed safely today


Siebold flew his first solo flight and gained his pilot’s license at 16 - the youngest age possible - and went on to teach flight classes at the San Luis Obispo Airport while he was a student at Cal Poly. He completed his degree in 2001.
The 43-year-old, who lives in Tehachapi, California with his wife, was one of the test pilots for SpaceShipOne, a experimental spaceplane that completed the first manned private spaceflight in 2004. As a design engineer at its aerospace company Scaled Composites, Siebold was responsible for the simulator, navigation system, and ground control system for the SpaceShipOne project.
In 2009, he was awarded the Iven C. Kincheloe award - the most prestigious award a test pilot can receive - for his role as chief test pilot on the Model 348 WhiteKnightTwo plane, used to lift the SpaceShipTwo spacecraft to release altitude.
By the time of his award, he had logged about 2,500 hours of flight time in 40 different types of fixed wing aircraft, MustangNews reported.

On October 7, Virgin Galactic tweeted: 'Pilots Pete Siebold (Scaled) and CJ Sturckow (Virgin Galactic) have landed #SpaceShipTwo safely after another great test flight.'


Quote:
HOW VIRGIN GALACTIC WILL TAKE PASSENGERS TO SPACE SpaceShipTwo has been under development at Mojave Air and Spaceport in the desert northeast of Los Angeles.
SpaceShipTwo is carried aloft by a specially designed mothership and then released before igniting its rocket for suborbital thrill ride into space and then a return to Earth as a glider.

Ticket cost: The starting price for flights is $250,000 (£150,000) - the first ceremonial flight will be undertaken by Richard Branson and his family.
Training: Passengers are required to go through a 'Pre-Flight Experience Programme', including three days of pre-flight preparing onsite at the spaceport to ensure passengers are physically and mentally fit to fly.

Once aboard: SpaceShipTwo will carry six passengers and two pilots. Each passenger gets the same seating position with two large windows - one to the side and one overhead.





A climb to 50,000ft before the rocket engine ignites. Passengers become 'astronauts' when they reach the Karman line, the boundary of Earth's atmosphere, at which point SpaceShipTwo separates from its carrier aircraft, White Knight II. The spaceship will make a sub-orbital journey with approximately six minutes of weightlessness, with the entire flight lasting approximately 3.5 hours.The spaceship accelerates to approximately 3,000 mph - or nearly four times the speed of sound



The space ship is 60ft long with a 90inch diameter cabin allowing maximum room for the astronauts to float in zero gravity.
Flight path: A climb to 50,000ft before the rocket engine ignites. Passengers become 'astronauts' when they reach the Karman line, the boundary of Earth's atmosphere, at which point SpaceShipTwo separates from its carrier aircraft, White Knight II.

The spaceship will make a sub-orbital journey with approximately six minutes of weightlessness, with the entire flight lasting approximately 3.5 hours.
The spaceship accelerates to approximately 3,000 mph - or nearly four times the speed of sound
Flight frequency: Initially one per week, eventually to have two flights per day.



SpaceShipTwo was flying under rocket power after being released from its mothership - then Virgin tweeted that it had 'experienced an in-flight anomaly.'


Ericson is the most recent addition to the team. He joined in July and passed his FAA check ride in August - meaning he was cleared to be pilot-in-command of WhiteKnightTwo, according to Virgin Galactic's Facebook page. A relative today wrote on social media that he was not hurt.
Before joining Virgin, he was an Operations and Maintenance Group Commander for the United States Air Force. He graduated from the Air Force Academy in 1991 and went on to clock up 23 years of military experience. He has logged more than 8,500 flight hours in over 90 diverse aircraft types.
In his role with the Air Force, he was in charge of safety for around 600 staff working in flight operations and maintenance. He also previously served as the Chief of Safety for the Air Force Test Center.





The photo from the first captive carry of SpaceShipTwo in 2010





The ship attached to its mothership


Quote:
A HISTORY OF DELAYS
July 2008 - Branson predicts that the maiden space voyage will take place within 18 months
October 2009 - Virgin Galactic says initial flights will take place from Spaceport America 'within two years'
December 7, 2009 - SpaceShipTwo unveiled and Branson tells ticket holders that flights will being in 2011
April 2011 - Branson says that due to delays flights will not begin for another 18 months
April 29, 2013 - SpaceShipTwo has first test flight, but only achieves a speed of 920 mph, less than half the speed Branson predicted
May 14, 2013 - Branson says first flight will take place on December 25, 2013
September 2014 - Branson says first flight will happen in February or March of 2015
In May, the company announced it was switching the fuel used in the vehicle's hybrid rocket motor, hydroxyl-terminated polybutadiene, a form of rubber, to a polyamide-based plastic.

During a media tour of Virgin Galactic's Mojave facilities on October 4 that marked the tenth anniversary of the final flight of SpaceShipOne, the suborbital vehicle that won the $10-million Ansari X Prize, company officials said they expected to resume powered test flights 'imminently' once qualification tests of the new motor were done.

At the International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight in Las Cruces, New Mexico, on October 15, Virgin Galactic chief executive George Whitesides said the company had completed those qualification tests.
'We expect to get back into powered test flight quite soon,' he said.
SpaceShipTwo has been under development at Mojave Air and Spaceport in the desert northeast of Los Angeles.

SpaceShipTwo is carried aloft by a specially designed jet and then released before igniting its rocket for suborbital thrill ride into space and then a return to Earth as a glider.

Seats on the flights into space are already being snapped for £250,000 ahead of the spring launch at Spaceport America in New Mexico.

Branson’s big project has also attracted a slew of big name passengers happy to pay for this once in a lifetime experience, including newlyweds Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie; Justin Bieber and his manager Scooter Braun; Lady Gaga, who plans to try and sing in space; former pop star Lance Bass, who has long been vocal about his desire to head to space; Ashton Kutcher, who was the 500th customer to purchase a ticket; Tom Hanks; Bryan Singer; and Princess Beatrice, who would be the first royal in space and who dates Dave Clark, an executive at Virgin Galactic.

Russell Brand also got a ticket for his birthday from ex-wife Katy Perry when the two were married. Perry bought a ticket as well so Brand would not have to go alone.
Stephen Hawking and Kate Winslet are also set to fly, but got their seats for free. Winslet because she is married to Branson’s nephew, Ned RocknRoll, and Hawking because Branson wanted to offer the legendary astrophysicist a chance to go into space.


However, some of the nearly 700 passengers have already paid for a ticket on the craft.
Some stumped up the fee as long ago as 2005, but still have no idea when they will eventually reach space.
The 700 takers for the flights are already benefiting from their ticket purchase, which by extension enters them into an exclusive club that has seen them visit Necker Island and the Mojave Desert with Branson along with undertaking G-force training.


One Dead, One Badly Hurt as Virgin Galactic's Space Ship Explodes





Mojave Air CEO Confirms One Dead in Virgin Galactic Spaceship Flight






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Default re: VIDEOs- Virgin Spaceship Crash-Caused by Pilot Error?

'Pilot Error' May have Caused Virgin Galactic Crash after Branson Spaceship's 'Descend Device' was Deployed Prematurely, Investigators Reveal

  • Investigators found fuel tanks intact in Mojave desert, ruling out explosion
  • Instead, spaceship broke apart in mid-air following serious braking error
  • 'Feathering' system enabling craft to rapidly reduce speed deployed early
  • Co-pilot engaged system but next step occurred without human command
  • Investigators say establishing exact cause of crash could take up to a year
Daily Mail UK, 4 November 2014


US investigators say they have not ruled out the possibility of pilot error on board the doomed Virgin Galactic spaceship, as they revealed that a safety device to slow the craft's descent was deployed early.



The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), which is leading the probe into the crash in the Mojave Desert in California on Friday, said investigators found that the spaceship's 'feathering' system - which lifts and rotates the tail to create drag - was activated before the craft reached the appropriate speed and that the fuel tanks were found intact and had not blown up.
Deploying the feathering system is a two-step process. Christopher Hart, acting chairman of the NTSB, said the American co-pilot had unlocked the system but that second step occurred 'without being commanded'.







Disaster: An investigation has revealed that Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo did not explode in mid-air due to fuel ignition - but it could have come apart for mechanical reasons


'After it was unlocked, the feathers moved into the deployed position and two seconds later we saw disintegration,' he told a press conference.

Mr Hart said investigators would look at a wide range of issues including training, the spacecraft's design and whether there was pressure to continue testing, over the coming months to determine the cause of the crash.

SpaceShipTwo co-pilot Michael Alsbury, 39, died when the aircraft crashed. Surviving pilot Peter Siebold, 43, was alert and speaking with family members and medical staff in hospital, his employer, Scaled Composites, said. He could be the key to understanding how exactly the catastrophe occurred.




Crash: The spacecraft was supposed to 'feather' when it reached its maximum altitude at 360,000ft but the device was launched early just seconds after detaching from the launch craft




'Feathers': It was revealed that a mechanism related to the movable wings on the plane was triggered earlier than usual. They are shown above laying flat on the plane, in the position usual for when the plane accelerates




Space brakes: They 'feathers' are shown above in the other position, which helps the craft slow down more quickly as it falls to earth. The feathers moved directly before the ship split apart, killing one pilot


Virgin Galactic crash NOT caused by exploding fuel tank:





Investigators said it could take up to a year before they are able to establish exactly why SpaceShipTwo crashed.

There had been speculation engine failures were behind the crash, prompted in part because SpaceShipTwo was trialing a new, more potent fuel for the first time.
But at a briefing last night Mr Hart said SpaceShipTwo's fuel tanks and engines showed no signs of being compromised.
Instead he revealed a crucial lever inside the ****pit had been pulled by one of the pilots earlier than usual, shortly followed by the non-requested deployment of the 'feathers'.

The feathers - a unique design feature of SpaceShipTwo - are wings on the back of the vehicle which rotate during flight. In one position they act like the wings of a plane, letting the craft accelerate and climb while the rocket fires.

In the other position, they become massive drag brakes, which helps slow the spaceship down as it re-enters the atmosphere.


Richard Branson was 'uncomfortable' with explosion claims







Investigation: Agents from the NTSB are shown picking through debris in the Mojave Desert, California







Pilots: Michael Alsbury (TOP) was killed in the crash, while co-pilot Peter Siebold survived


Hart told reporters that, just seconds after the powerful rocket engine engaged, one of the two pilots started the process which lets the levers move.
He said that the process is not usually engaged until the spacecraft is traveling at Mach 1.4, but in this case it was begun while the plane was still accelerating from Mach 1.0 - the speed of sound.
One of the pilots pulled an 'unlock' lever, which then activates a separate lever which actually moves the wings, he explained.
He revealed the second lever had not been pulled - but that the feathers moved anyway, directly before the craft came apart in the air.

The new information leaves open the possibility of pilot error and mechanical failure. Hart stressed during the conference that he was not suggesting a cause for the disaster, merely stating facts.

NTSB investigators have also recovered intact fuel containers from the plane, as well as video feeds from inside and outside the ****pit which may shed further light on the crash.





Grisly scene: Law enforcement officials examine the wreckage of the Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo








Mangled: The undercarriage of the aircraft can be seen amid the twisted metal of the fuselage in the Mojave Desert



Richard Branson: Determined to find out what went wrong





The agency is also interviewing experts and witnesses to help understand the crash - a process which could take as long as a year to be completely resolved.
Hart said: 'The debris field indicates an in-flight breakup. We'll know that for certainty when we look at all the sources we have.

The NTSB is leading the investigation into Friday's crash of SpaceShipTwo, which was undergoing its first powered test flight since January when it crashed, spreading debris over a 5-mile (8 km) swath of the Mojave Desert north of Los Angeles.
One pilot was killed and another was badly injured.

Preliminary data gathered in the Virgin accident indicates that a structural failure, and not an engine explosion, led to the crash, according to a report published Sunday in the Wall Street Journal.





Lengthy: In a press conference yesterday the head of the agency said a full report could take a year to compile




Working: A team of NTSB investigators are pictured above in a Virgin Galactic hangar. They have video feeds to examine, interviews to conduct and wreckage to sift through


Investigators outline plans to determine cause of crash





Citing a source familiar with the nascent investigation, the report said video and early data was focusing on 'aerodynamic forces' that could have led to its downing.

Virgin Galactic's owner, British billionaire and entrepreneur Richard Branson, traveled to Mojave on Saturday to meet with his team and NTSB investigators.




Crisis: Sir Richard Branson is fighting for his reputation - and his fortune - as fall out spreads from the crash of his prototype passenger spaceship


He said he was determined to uncover the cause of the crash and said he believed the dream of space tourism for everyday passengers would live on.
'We have done that many times,' he added.

SpaceShipTwo was in the midst of test flights and was not yet certified for commercial operations when the crash occurred, delaying indefinitely the start of passenger service.

Branson and his son plan to fly on the first commercial flight. About 800 people already have paid or put down deposits for the ride, which costs $250,000.
The craft is intended to fly people to an altitude of just over 60 miles so they can experience a few minutes of weightlessness and see the Earth against the blackness of space.

'We really thought by March of next year, we'd be there,' the billionaire entrepreneur told the BBC after arriving in Mojave on Saturday. 'Something went wrong. We need to find out what went wrong and fix it.'

U.S. investigators say the powered test flight of Virgin's SpaceShipTwo on Friday was well recorded, giving them an abundance of information to help determine what caused the rupture.
The two pilots involved were employees of Scaled Composites, a Northrop Grumman Corpsubsidiary that designed and built the six-passenger, two-pilot craft for Virgin Galactic.

Michael Alsbury, 39, was identified as the pilot who died. Co-pilot Peter Siebold, 43, who was riding in the right-hand seat, parachuted to the ground and was recovering at a nearby hospital, Scaled Composites said in a statement.


RELATED:


All Aboard? Dozens of Millionaire Investors from Swiss Bankers to Royals Pull out of Branson’s Virgin Space Flights After Disaster

  • Peter Ulrich von May, an asset manager based in Switzerland, told The Independent that he no longer wishes to travel with Virgin Galactic
  • Source said group of more than 30 had been talking about asking for refund
  • Daily Mail reported Princess Beatrice will not board Virgin Galactic spaceship
  • More than 700 people - including Hollywood stars Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, Tom Hanks and Leonardo DiCaprio - have bought tickets for spaceflights

Dozens of the wealthy investors who signed up to be among the first space tourists with Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic programme are considering giving up their tickets.

Following the crash of SpaceShipTwo in California's Mojave desert on Friday that killed one pilot and left another in hospital, there have been reports that a number of Branson's 'future astronauts' are pulling out.

Peter Ulrich von May, an asset manager based in Switzerland, told The Independent that he no longer wishes to travel into space with Virgin Galactic and he has demanded his money back.

He said: 'I want out. I subscribed seven years ago at 63, am still an active private pilot and in good health but who knows how long it will now take. I have already informed VG of my wish - no reply yet.'

The Daily Mail reported two days ago that one of the programme's most high-profile customers Princess Beatrice will not be boarding the Virgin Galactic spacecraft after the disaster last week.

'Beatrice was excited by the idea of space tourism, but there is no way she will be going on one of the flights, if they are ever allowed to take place,' a source close to Buckingham Palace revealed.

An anonymous source told The Independent that a group of more than 30 had been talking about asking for a refund, in a move that could cost Branson millions.

'Before this tragic event happened I had been thinking of pulling my money anyhow because there had been various reports saying it doesn't stand a chance of getting into space,' the source added. 'I am giving serious thought to pulling out.'

More than 700 people - including Hollywood A-listers Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, Tom Hanks and Leonardo DiCaprio - have bought tickets for Virgin Galactic space voyage flights, which sell at $250,000.

Ashton Kutcher was one of the first celebrities to book his ticket - and the 500th person overall - and he has since been joined by Katy Perry, Justin Bieber, Russell Brand and Lady Gaga.

Actress Victoria Principal bought a ticket in 2009, but her representative Alan Nierob told USA Today that she withdrew from the program in 2012.





Following Friday's crash Branson has insisted that Virgin Galactic could 'move forward' as he vowed to travel on board the space flight with his relatives once safety tests have been completed


On Friday, Branson announced on the Virgin Galactic site that refunds would be available following the tragedy and a spokesperson said that a number of people have asked for their money back.
'We can confirm that less than three per cent of people have requested refunds,' the spokesman said.
But the anonymous source also told The Independent that some people are 'die-hard Richard Branson supporters and they will go on it whatever'.

Igor Kutsenko, who runs an advertising agency in Moscow and plans to go into space with his parents, said: 'We were all shocked and disappointed by the tragic news. We are in the project from very beginning.
'My parents are getting older and I'm only worried that their physical ability to participate in this obviously challenging adventure is deteriorating. But we stay firm in our desire to make this suborbital flight.'





More than 700 people - including Hollywood A-listers Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt - have bought tickets for Virgin Galactic space voyage flights, which sell at $250,000








Tom Hanks and Leonardo DiCaprio also shelled out for tickets on the spacecraft


Branson had previously said of his programme, and those who wanted to get involved and travel to the final frontier, 'Everybody who signs up knows this is the birth of a new space program and understands the risks that go with that.'

Following Friday's crash the billionaire tycoon has insisted that Virgin Galactic could 'move forward' as he vowed to travel on board the space flight with his relatives once safety tests have been completed.
He told Sky News: 'We've spent many, many years building a spacecraft, a mothership, a space port, that I think can do the job and do the job safely.





Actress Victoria Principal bought a ticket in 2009, but her representative Alan Nierob told USA Today that she withdrew from the program in 2012








Ashton Kutcher was one of the first celebrities to book his ticket - and the 500th person overall - and he has since been joined by Katy Perry


'We will not start taking people until we've finished a whole massive series of test flights and until myself and my family have gone up, and until we feel that we can safely say to people 'we're ready to go'.'
He added: 'All I can say is we will not fly members of the public unless we can fly myself and family members.
'We need to be absolutely certain our spaceship has been thoroughly tested - and that it will be - and once it's thoroughly tested and we can go to space, we will go to space.
'We must push on. There are incredible things that can happen through mankind being able to explore space properly.'








Russel Brand and Justin Bieber are two of the celebrities signed up to Branson's spaceflights



Virgin Galactic Crash NOT Caused by Exploding Fuel Tank



Richard Branson was 'Uncomfortable' with Explosion Claims




Investigators Outline Plans to Determine Cause of Crash



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