Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo crashes, killing a pilot

One person is dead and another seriously injured after Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo suffered an “in-flight anomaly” and broke apart in midair.

A test flight of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo spaceplane ended in catastrophe Friday after some sort of anomaly caused the craft to break apart in midair.

SpaceShipTwo was conducting a test of its rocket engines over the Mojave Desert when it experienced an unknown failure at about 50,000 feet. There were two crew members on board at the time of the accident; California Highway Patrol officials told KERO one of the pilots died in the crash and another suffered major injuries.

Virgin Galactic says the craft suffered a “serious anomaly,” which destroyed SpaceShipTwo. Its mothership, White Knight 2, apparently landed safely. The company added it will work with authorities to determine what caused the crash.

Friday’s launch would have been the fourth powered flight for SpaceShipTwo — its last rocket test was conducted back in January. Since then, Virgin has switched the plane’s fuel mixture and conducted several nonpowered gliding test flights.

The tragedy comes just four days after another high-profile space disaster — the Antares resupply rocket was exploded seconds after takeoff after it became clear the rocket was suffering a critical problem.

Variety notes the accident raises questions about the future of NBC’s upcoming reality show “Space Race,” which offered a trip in the now-destroyed SpaceShipTwo as its grand prize.

As of Friday afternoon, the surviving pilot was being airlifted by medical helicopter to a hospital in Lancaster, California, for treatment.

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