Entrepreneur Richard Branson arrived today in theMojave Desert tomeet with the Virgin Galactic team after
the Friday crash that killed one pilot and injured another. The Virgin Galactic spaceship went down about 95
miles north of Los Angeles after embarking on a test flight.
The injured pilot has not yet been named, but he jumped from the plane via a parachute.
The second pilot, the fatal victim, was none other than 39-year-oldMichael Alsbury, a test pilot and project
engineer for Scaled Composites, a company that designed and built the Virgin spacecraft. His appearance on the
Virgin spacecraft as co-pilot, was his ninth.
At the heart of the question over the cause of the accident pertains to the use of plastic-type propellant as
opposed to the rubber-based kind that was replaced just earlier this Spring. The new propellant is ignited by way
of laughing gas, known otherwise as nitrous oxide.
Since test flights are always heavily documented, according to experts, it’s highly possible that there will be
some hard data to help get to the root of what caused theVirgin spacecraft to crash. Acting NTSB chairman
Christopher Hart said that “This was a test flight, and test flights are very well-documented in terms of data.We
may have lots of evidence that will help us with the investigative process.”
The Virgin spacecraft madness the second commercial airliner to crash in a week, with the first being an Orbital
Sciences Corp Antares rocket went down after launching in the air and striking an International Space Station
As for Richard Branson, the spacecraft is named after the Virgin Group, a company based in London. Branson
is a billionaire, with an empire that contains mobile phones and music stores alongside of aircraft.