Virgin Galactic's SpaceShip Two Lost; One Pilot Confirmed Dead

SpaceShip2 Final Burn - H 2014
Courtesy of Virgin Galactic

SpaceShip2 Final Burn - H 2014

The Richard Branson-founded company is working with the authorities to determine the cause of the accident.

Virgin Galactic's space tourism rocket SpaceShipTwo was lost during a test flight in Southern California, leaving one pilot dead. The Richard Branson-founded company said it was working with the authorities to determine the cause of the accident.

"Thoughts with all @virgingalactic & Scaled, thanks for all your messages of support. I'm flying to Mojave immediately to be with the team," Branson tweeted. 

At 10:50 am, SpaceShipTwo crashed in the Mojave Desert, with one of the pilots confirmed dead and the other suffering "moderate to major" injuries, Sgt. M. Singer, of the California Highway Patrol, told THR. The Federal Aviation Administration said the Mojave Spaceport lost contact with the ship less than an hour earlier.

"Just after 10 a.m. PDT today, ground controllers at the Mojave Spaceport lost contact with SpaceShipTwo, an experimental space flight vehicle, the FAA statement read. "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. The FAA is investigating."

The initial statement from Virgin Galactic did not comment on the status of the pilots. The National Transportation Safety Board said in a tweet that it would be sending a team to investigate the crash. 

"Virgin Galactic’s partner Scaled Composites conducted a powered test flight of SpaceShipTwo earlier today," the statement on the company's website read. "During the test, the vehicle suffered a serious anomaly resulting in the loss of the vehicle. Our first concern is the status of the pilots, which is unknown at this time. We will work closely with the relevant authorities to determine the cause of the accident and provide updates as soon as we are able to do so."

Virgin Galactic, along with Elon Musk's SpaceX, is one of the leading private spaceflight companies. In March the Branson company announced a partnership with NASA for a commercial research flight on SpaceShipTwo. 

1:10 pm, Oct. 10 Fully updated with additional information 

More to come.