At a press conference in California, Virgin Galactic chief executive George Whitesides said: “Space is hard and today was a tough day. “We are going to be supporting the investigation as we figure out what happened today. We are going to get through it. “The future rests in many ways on hard days like this but we believe we owe it to the folks who were flying these vehicles as well as the folks who have been working so hard on them to understand this and to move forward.”
He said it was the first time the rocket had been flown using a new fuel formulation. “It had been proven and tested on the ground many times,” he added. Whitesides said the pilots were employed by Scaled Composites. He added that the injured pilot was “as well as could be expected”. SpaceShipTwo has been under development at Mojave Air and Spaceport.
The flight had taken off at 9.30am local time (4.30pm GMT) and the two craft had separated at 10.10am (5.10pm GMT). A problem was discovered two minutes later and teams were sent to the crash site 25 miles (40km) north of the local airport.