Wit­ness: Space tourism rocket ex­plodes in desert

The Star (St. Lucia) - - INTERNATIONAL -

AVir­gin Galac­tic space tourism rocket ex­ploded after tak­ing off on a test flight in South­ern Cal­i­for­nia’s Mo­jave Desert, a wit­ness said Fri­day.

At least one was dead and another was in­jured, Cal­i­for­nia High­way Pa­trol said. The SpaceShipTwo rocket is typ­i­cally flown by a crew of two pi­lots and has been un­der de­vel­op­ment at Mo­jave Air and Space Port in the desert north­east of Los An­ge­les. “Dur­ing the test, the ve­hi­cle suf­fered a se­ri­ous anom­aly re­sult­ing in the loss of SpaceShipTwo,” Vir­gin Galac­tic tweeted Fri­day.

Ken Brown, a pho­tog­ra­pher who wit­nessed the crash, said the space tourism craft ex­ploded after it was re­leased from a plane that car­ries it to a high al­ti­tude.

The company founded by Bri­tish bil­lion­aire Richard Branson would not say what hap­pened other than it was work­ing with au­thor­i­ties to de­ter­mine the cause of the “ac­ci­dent.”

Vir­gin Galac­tic has been the front-run­ner in the fledg­ling space-tourism in­dus­try. SpaceShipTwo was de­signed to be car­ried aloft by a spe­cially de­signed jet and then re­leased be­fore ig­nit­ing its rocket for a sub­or­bital thrill ride into space and then a re­turn to Earth as a glider.

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