Took off a few minutes ago in Mojave. Looks like a powered flight attempt, if the weather cooperates (there’s a front coming in, that’s supposed to bring us some much-needed Halloween rain this evening).

[Update a few minutes later]

Here’s the story from Alan Boyle.

[Update at 10:26]

[Update a few minutes later]

Alan Stern just tweeted, after I asked if they had chutes, that they are (or were) on chute.

[Update a few minutes later]

Still no update, but as Charles Lurio just emailed, “Statement forthcoming” is always a bad sign.

[Update at 11 AM]

OK, some confusion about whether or not pilots bailed, but reports on police scanner of a downed aircraft, and Bakersfield reports sending Kern County fire equipment north of Mojave.

[Update at 11:23]

One pilot reported dead, news conference at 2 PM PDT. They’re covering it at NASASpaceflight.

[Update a few minutes later]

Doug Messier is back in Internet range, and reporting that he saw it light, then stop, then relight, then got lost in clouds. Saw it blow up in the air, came down in pieces. Went to crash site with debris field, saw a body in a seat.

[Update, just before press conference in Mojave]

Streaming at NBC.

35 thoughts on “WhiteKnightTwo”

  1. The words “in-flight anomaly” cover a lot of ground, from something relatively minor like an electrical issue before release to a catastrophic RUD-level failure. I’d like some more info before getting too concerned.

      1. If they’re on chute, then it’s a definite loss of vehicle. Why hasn’t anyone actually posted anything we can see? I’m not asking for complete details – those won’t be known for a long time – but they can say something.

      1. Not to be irreverent at a grim moment like this, but RUD typically stands for
        “Rapid Unscheduled Disassembly”

        My heart goes out to the injured pilot and the families of both brave men.

  2. Are we talking a “oh crap, someone forgot to bring the jumper cables” or are we talking Antares style anomaly?

  3. From ABC 23:

    “MOJAVE, Calif. – Virgin Galactic has reported that SpaceShip Two has experienced an in-flight anomaly Friday morning during a test flight.

    The issue was reported at about 10 a.m. when Virgin Galactic reported via Twitter that SpaceShip Two started flying and roughly six minutes after the release, they experienced some type of problem.

    Officials with the Kern County Fire Department were sent to the area of Cantil and Garlock roads at about 10:30 a.m.

    Unconfirmed reports stated that two parachutes were seen in the air after the anomaly.”

  4. If the “anomaly” happened six minutes after release, SS2 must have been supersonic and at pretty high altitude…

    Even if pilots have chutes, I don’t think the ship has ejection seats. How would you safely bail out at that kind of speed / altitude?

    1. Since this was the first powered flight since January and the first of a new engine, odds are this was a short duration burn of 20 seconds or so. They normally light the engine within seconds of release. By six minutes after release, they’d be on their way down. Did they feather? Did the retract mechanism work? Was there a structural failure? As of this moment, I have no idea and it seems no one is talking. There are twitter remarks that one of the pilots was killed but the other has been found alive. Is that accurate?

  5. Oh, God:
    Oh shit.. RT @AlteredDeal: #SpaceShipTwo Scanner reporting that second pilot is deceased.

  6. Parabolic Arc just reported that SpaceShipTwo blew up during the engine burn. He said one of the pilots was found still in his seat. That’s about as serious of an “in-flight anomaly” as it gets.

  7. Nasapaceflight:

    Re: Space Ship Two – General Thread (2)

    « Reply #277 on: Today at 05:25 PM »

    Quote from: sghill on Today at 05:07 PM

    Now they are saying three (3) souls on board. Just confirmed a second time with dispatch.

    Chopper is saying there is a “a lot of debris”

  8. Rand Simberg retweeted

    Parabolicarc.com@spacecom · 6 mins6 minutes ago

    @VirginGalactic #SpaceShipTwo The ship broke apart and started coming down in pieces over the desert.0 replies11 retweets0 favorites





    California, US
    Rand Simberg retweeted

    Parabolicarc.com@spacecom · 7 mins7 minutes ago

    @VirginGalactic #SpaceShipTwo there were clouds overhead, so difficult to see. Then I heard Ken say, “They’re in trouble.”0 replies10 retweets0 favorites





    California, US
    Rand Simberg retweeted

    Parabolicarc.com@spacecom · 7 mins7 minutes ago

    @VirginGalactic #SpaceShipTwo dropped. From what I could tell, motor fired and then stopped then fired again. I think that’s what happened.0 replies21 retweets3 favorites





  9. NBC said that whiteknight2 safely landed. Would they have put three people on board for the first test flight of a new engine?

      1. Isn’t it still under the Scaled Composites timeline for flight testing? I thought the handover had not taken place yet?

  10. Three people may have included the pilot of whiteknight2 – they took off as one aircraft, after all. At least I hope so…

    My condolences to the family and friends of the pilot.

    1. There were probably two pilots in WK2, and it reportedly landed safely. The incident happened after separation. It sounds like early reports of two chutes were wrong.

    2. FAA:

      Just after 10 a.m. PDT today, ground controllers at the Mojave Spaceport lost contact with SpaceShipTwo, an experimental space flight vehicle. 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.

      1. Looks like the flying surfaces stayed more or less together — unless I’m mistaken, the two white lines are the booms (folded forward), and the tails came down roughly in one piece each. No sign of the fuselage, which would be consistent with a motor explosion.

  11. My condolences as well for the friends and family of the pilot. Regardless of the fate of Virgin Galactic, I sincerely hope his death will not be in vain and other’s will pick up where he left off and carry us forward into space.

  12. I had my own personal reservations about this after that refueling accident some years back, the protracted development time of WK2, the retirement of Burt Rutan, etc, etc.

    I think this one will go belly up. Sad week for commercial space with Orbital and this.

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