The Corner

Virgin Galactic Space Plane Crashes in Mojave Desert, One Pilot Dead

SpaceShipTwo, the experimental private spacecraft operated by billionaire Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic, crashed in California’s Mojave Desert on Friday, killing one test pilot and seriously injuring another in the second major setback for the American commercial space industry in a week.

Designed to take well-heeled tourists into space, the craft was expected to take customers willing to shell out a quarter million dollars into suborbital altitude by 2015. But that dream is likely shattered, as California High Patrol officers pour over pieces of the craft littered across the Mojave scrubland.

SpaceShipTwo was reportedly testing a new type of fuel when the “serious anomaly” occurred. It’s not yet clear whether the aircraft broke up in flight or upon impact.

The crash follows on the heels of Tuesday’s explosion of an Antares rocket carrying supplies to the International Space Station. The rocket was operated by Orbital Sciences, a private space company contracted by the U.S. government.