Virgin Galactic VSS Enterprise Crashes During Test – 1 Pilot Killed


Today a test flight of Virgin Galactic’s VSS Enterprise spaceplane ended in tragedy with a crash in the Mojave desert, with the loss of one of two .

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This morning the Virgin Galactic’s VSS Enterprise – the first of their ‘Spaceship Two’ sub-orbital spaceplanes – suffered a major malfunction during a test flight over the Mojave Desert in California. The company has issued the following statement.

Virgin Galactic’s partner Scaled Composites conducted a powered test flight of SpaceShipTwo earlier today. During the test, the vehicle suffered a serious anomaly resulting in the loss of the vehicle. The WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft landed safely. Our first concern is with crew and their families. We will work closely with relevant authorities to determine the cause of this accident and provide updates as soon as we are able to do so.

VSS Enterprise explodes during flight (AP)

According to CNN the problem started just two minutes after the rocket-powered VSS Enterprise was released from the WhiteKnightTwo jet carrier at 45,000 feet. CNN is also reporting that one of the pilots was killed in the accident and one was injured and is currently in serious condition. There is currently no indication what caused the crash, but this was the first test flight of a new fuel mixture. A "Go Team" from the NTSB is being dispatched to investigate the incident.

Clip from Virgin Galactic press conference (via CNN)

Today’s test was the fourth rocket-powered test flight for the VSS Enterprise, which has also had dozens of other test flights attached to the WhiteKnightTwo and dozens of unpowered glide tests as well.

VSS Enterprise powered test flight in April 2013

It was almost five years ago TrekMovie first reported on the VSS Enterprise after the ship was christened by Virgin Galactic in acknowledgement of fictional starships from Star Trek and other real world vessels to bear that name. The goal was to have the VSS Enterprise be the first private space ship to take tourists into space via sub-orbital flights costing $250,000 per passenger. 

Richard Branson at the christening of the VSS Enterprise – December 2009 (LA Times)

Branson acknowledged the crash on Twitter today and announced he will be

The thoughts and prayers of TrekMovie are with the family and friends of the Virgin Galactic and Scaled Composites teams.

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Thoughts & prayers to the pilot’s families.

They will get this right…it was a new experimental fuel used for the first time

Simply getting into space can be dangerous. Sad news indeed.

Truly sad and surprising news. Condolences to the families of those brave Enterprise pilots.

Not a good week for space flights, first NASA rocket & now this ?

Condolences to the test pilot’s family.

Thoughts and prayers in support of the grieving and frightened families, and hopes for future success. That’s what the test pilot who passed on and the one who is hospitalized would want, I think — continuance of a program they believed in.

By the way, the second SpaceShipTwo is already under construction. She is VSS Voyager.

A painful reminder that space exploration is still very much in it’s infancy….

May the pilots’ families be comforted in knowing so many of us pin our dreams on brave souls like these.
All our condolences.

This great journey will continue thanks to their courage and tenacity.

Words are really quite inadequate in times such as these. There is a monumental amount of risk attached to human spaceflight. Always has been, and always will be. I can think of many things to say in the wake of this loss, but the fact is that a human being has lost his life and another has been seriously injured in this tragic event. These facts will always be associated with this particular heroic effort to push back the boundaries of flight. Fiction pales before the reality of this news.

A great price has been paid to touch the face of God. Yet again.

My deepest condolences to those families affected by this tragedy.

My thoughts are with the friends and family.

Progress requires risk and I am sure they will overcome this setback and reach for the stars.

Perhaps one of the fan productions will dedicate their next episode to the pilot who lost his life…

You people, you’re kidding me right? ‘Thoughts and prayers’, seriously?

That egomaniac Branson has essentially murdered someone with his nonsense childish space aspirations, all because of a completely inadequate and unsafe approach to space travel. You make me sick trying to legitimise this incident – he’s not NASA, he’s not going to the moon. This is a vanity project and now someone’s died for it.

At least when Steve Fossett killed himself he had the decency not to harm anyone else.

This tragedy will always be a reminder of the dangers associated with exploration and leaving the comforts of terra firma; however, it should also serve as a motivation to be better and never give up. Richard Branson didn’t become a billionaire by backing down in the face of adversity. Virgin Galactic will rise from this and they will ultimately succeed. Mark my words, the memory of this pilot will not signify the beginning of the end, but the end of the beginning. The final frontier awaits us.

I only hope that the adventure continues, building on the heroism and sacrifice of the brave test pilots.

Perhaps an opportunity for an Enterprise-A ?

My Condolences :(

But they must learn from this and brave through…

I too would also hope they don’t retire the Enterprise name because of this

Definitely a setback. They will have to develop measures to ensure pilot safety for sure.

My condolences for the brave pilots… =(

…but what a waste: of life, resources, effort, everything… =(

there are MUCH BETTER & SAFER ways to do “space travel” ;-)

strapping your butt to a ton of explosive is insanely primitive!

13… Wow. Next time try the decaf.

18… “But Cap’n, I canna change the laws of physics!” If you know of a better way to get to space, I’m sure Scaled Composites, Lockheed-Martin, Boeing, Orbital, and SpaceX among others would love to hear it.

” strapping your butt to a ton of explosive is insanely primitive! ”

Oh yeah – they should go back to doing it the old way… whcih was….

now hang on I know this…..

19. Thorny: google tr-3b etc… ;-)

13 Punctilious, This is a vanity project and now someone’s died for it.
So if NASA was decently funded an identical attempt at spaceflight would be fine by you, eh?

The pilots undertook what they knew must be a risky project. That is what test pilots do. This was not the first test flight of this craft, but one of many conducted by Virgin/Branson.

I will not deny that Branson is an egotist, but sometimes ego is how great things begin. A person without a certain amount of chutzpah does not take gambles with hir money or reputation.

I suggest you direct your ire by writing to Congress to demand they provide NASA the kind of funds they need to help mankind Boldly Go.

And remember Challenger. Even NASA can screw up big time.

Hi Anthony: I keep getting script errors on your (this) page…

…anything you can do? keeps clogging my processor… =(

thanks! =)

20. I am not Herbert – November 1, 2014
19. Thorny: google tr-3b etc… ;-)

Well, that’s it. There is the solution. That was an easy one. What a shame that Scaled Composites, Lockheed-Martin, Boeing, Orbital, SpaceX and NASA aren’t able to use google.

…no, nasa is just a cover story…

the real money is being eaten up by the secret government’s secret space program (run by the navy, btw) ;-)

23. stephan: it’s all out there… u just have to look for it… & open your mind ;-)

This IS an ego project – and it IS a waste. Virgin is NOT NASA and never will be. NASA lost people (Apollo 1, Challenger, Columbia), but engineers weren’t walking off the job like Virgin’s engineers have.

And for those who think you need this level of ego to privatize space travel – you’re crazy and stupid. Ask anyone at NASA in the 60’s – ego didn’t drive them, it truly was the spirit of discovery and patriotism. Most of all, NASA was about being as SAFE as possible. Virgin is one man’s need to make money and satisfy his ego……….as Branson himself admits.

These pilots and engineers are the heroes who help us move towards the world that we all want to live in.

Herbert, this isn’t the place for your conspiracy theory rants. Take it somewhere else.

Space exploration is a risk/reward venture. If you’re not willing to accept the risks, you won’t be rewarded. Of course, on the flip side, there is always going to be tragedies and setbacks every so often. But perserverance leads to discoveries and breakthroughs for the betterment of mankind.

Space exploration is a far better alternative to war.

25. I am not Herbert – November 1, 2014

And why doesn’t anybody with money take advantage of it and build something?

29. stephan: the secret government will kill to KEEP it secret, of course… =P

(ALL KINDS of useful (to say the least) technology is suppressed, for reasons of “national security”…) ;-)

…and (secret government bought) PROFIT protection ;-)

Folks, a brave soul was lost, a pilot striving to move us all forward. And another is still not out from jeopardy. They were doing what they wanted to do, let’s accept that. Their families are grieving, and or praying.

This thread is going a bit further afield than I had hoped, and yet I cannot help comparing reality with the fictional enterprise we admire.

Kirk said that risk is our business. In fact, I agree with this fictional captain, that risk for people that undertake that risk is an ordinary thing, and indeed that this is why they are heroic. Test Piot Michael Alsbury has been named as the deceased pilot in this incident, and I would daresay that his family weeps for his loss. Whatever fiction says, the reality of this tragedy exists, and it should exist for us as well. He had young children; he had newly moved into a neighborhood. All this, I glean from news reports.

Mr. Branson is moving cautiously, requiring some form of explanation and moving forward with the program if the causes of this tragedy can be determined. I admire the Branson spirit.

Nothing will comfort the family of Mr. Alsbury, however, if it has to do with the idea that this is somehow “for the greater good.” It may be true that he knew the risks and rewards, but I can almost guarantee you that he did not go into that bright day in the Fall believing that he would die before the sun set that evening.

This makes this tragedy all the more poignant, my friends. Talk of secret programs, the advance of civilization, etc. — none of this really matters to his loved ones.

This day, we think not of fictional universes or the mythical path into the wild black yonder in centuries hence. We think of the cost, the price, the sacrifice made for doing the things we do.

For it is in death that the ordinary becomes the extraordinary, and those tasked with understanding it, realize with the greatest possible humility that our common humanity, in every moment, takes us — willingly or not — into the great beyond.

20. Herbert… That’s hilarious. Please tell me you haven’t fallen for those bad Photoshop jobs, have you? Some of those are awful, I could do better and I don’t do much more than touch up old family photos. There might be something like the TR-3B flying around (or might have been) but it would be incredibly more likely to be/have been a traditional jet-powered stealth aircraft like the F-117 or B-2. That “Black Manta” looks suspiciously like the Navy’s canceled A-12 Avenger II (the “Flying Dorito”) or the X-47 (which recently made unmanned carrier landings). So what’s more likely, amazing UFO anti-gravity drives, or the Pentagon is flying traditional jet-powered stealth aircraft it has not acknowledged.

The final frontier is dangerous…but that should not stop the quest to continue the journey. RIP.

30. I am not Herbert

How come, that everytime I take you serious you are answering with nonsense? Are you trolling, making fun of me or why can’t you discuss like a grown up?
And please don’t tell me your answer was meant serious. You can’t be THAT much out of your mind.

33. Thorny: don’t try to convince me of “what is likely”… (u have no clue) ;-)

obviously, u only need to convince YOURSELF anyway! LOL! =D

btw: Branson has said: “we will not push on blindly…” (smart) ;-)

Why do people write on forums, that none of the relatives are ever likely to read, that their thoughts and prayers are with them.
By writing such redundant nonsense the only person the author is thinking about is themselves…It;s supreme egomania.

My condolences to his family.

A very sad week for real-life space travel indeed…

On the other hand…while fruitious real-life space travel may be decades if not centuries away, I never saw Star Trek as a prelude to real-world achievements as some science geeks might feel.

As with all other related genres and franchises, we will never be able to get there… To me, Star Trek is like Star Wars, Middle-Earth or comic books, a self-contained world, a wonderful setting fpr great story-telling… There is no Force, there is no “one ring” and there are no superheroes running around in capes… unfortunately, there’ll never be a “Starship Enterprise” either in the real world… no matter how hard some of us try…

On the other hand… willing suspens of disbelief, aka willing acceptance of make-belief is a powerful weapon… because in fantasy, the ring, the force and the Enterprise DO “exist”… Maybe we need to give up dreaming of “reality” once in a while… Reality is highly overrated these days anyway…

What I want to say: once you accept there is no ring, no force, no Enterprise, it is such delight to accept that there are no girls in your life either… no wars, no drugs… it’s all just on film, and you are in power to switch it on and off… you become the master of your own fake reality as you reduce real-life items to fiction… It’s the geek side of the force, man!

In other words: I don’t need a real-life Enterprise, I even don’t need an iPhone…because it’s better than TOS communicators. It’s real and reality is so 20th century…

Wow. So sad.

Boldly go….

36. smike: I feel sad for you… we ARE already there (u just don’t know it)

basically, u r saying that you are a nihilist… =(

I assure you: The Force IS REAL ;-)

Can we just be sad about the loss of life and leave it at that– at least for the moment? How can any of us have a valid opinion on this based on the information known thus far? How can we know what the pilot would have wanted.

I think some of you guys have to open your minds a bit , I’ve read enough info over many many many years to figure out that we must have at least some anti-gravity technlogy, however rudimentary it is. Not all of the “whistleblowers” can be lying, there would have to be *some* truth buried amongst it all.

My opinion is that rockets are too inherantly unsafe for public space travel. We will never have mass-market public space travel until there is a better technology available to take it there.

Don’t get me wrong, I want Richard Branson to succeed with his virgin Galactic, but the current means of getting there are just too unsafe.

I agree with those who say that the timeline for space exploration is not, by any stretch of the imagination, established by fictional speculation or extrapolation.

One looks at the retro-futuristic predictions of the past with amusement, for example. The thoughts of popular futurists of the late 1800’s about what life would be like in a hundred years were often markedly wrong.

As science-fiction fans in general, and as Star Trek fans in particular, we have chosen to suspend disbelief and enjoy our favorite stories about space travel and other things, but the truth of it is that the inventions (both literal and literary) of this genre can be highly misleading if we take them seriously.

Warp drive is not about to be invented, and there is no Zefram Cochrane. The Alcubierre Drive is still only a figment of someone’s mathematical expostulation. NASA is working on a warp drive…. and so much win? Yes, but this could be merely a blind alley. And most likely is.

We are optimistic that man will escape the planet reliably, but millions have already conceded that this Earth of ours will be our only world for the foreseeable future. Tsiolkovsky’s legendary prediction — that the Earth is the cradle of our civilization, but that one cannot live in a cradle forever — does not come with a schedule.

I don’t know quite what to say in times like these. It was a terrible week for space exploration in the West, and yet China did strike a blow for the future of space exploration by revisiting the past; her lunar probe returned from a trip beyond the far side of the Moon. It was an engineering test in preparation for a possible manned mission in ten or twenty years hence. It was something that Americans had done in 1968 — with Apollo 8. In a manned craft, on Christmas Day.

The calendar says 2014, and Americans no longer have the capability to escape Earth orbit but relies on Russia so to do.

Two steps forward, one step back.

Our famous Shuttle, that killed 14 human being, but that also reached nearly beyond the farthest reach of the cosmos with the Hubble Space Telescope, exists only in museums, and the new super-boosters of the SLS are only in the testing stage.

Two steps forward. One step back.

I suspect that our timeline for developments in space was skewed greatly by the events of the JFK speech vowing to reach the Moon before the decade was out. The accomplishment of that nearly ended our aspirations. It was as if we had conceived of a marathon based on a sprint.

In the case of leaving our beautiful planet, I suspect that mankind will not explore the stars, in reality, until a factor of ten or a hundred beyond what is speculated in our Trek-like imaginations.

See you on Alpha Centauri, in a thousand years hence.

And remember those who sacrificed their lives while trying to get us there.

What if….

What if Apollo had not ended the way it did?

Here is a write-up on what could have been:

Kirk might have said… “just words.”

But words are where ideas begin. They are good words. They were, even at the time, good ideas. They are not reality.

A counterpoint to what I just said, in the posting immediately above, is that life persists in a measure because of hope. It is hope, merely, but also profoundly. And it is something we cannot abandon.

Sad news. Condolences to the pilot’s family.
The human adventure is just beginning. And it sometimes costs too much.

Its a shame it takes private enterprise like this to push us towards the stars.

George Bush had set out some fairly reasonable expectations for space travel, getting to the moon, going to Mars. Even if he didnt fund it the way it needed. Obama’s gutting of space projects was so short-sighted.

I read a list once of inventions we have today because of the space race. We could be on Mars in no time. All it takes is money and will.

Hat Rick: eloquently put, but invalidly based… u r buying the official story…

…it is all lies… we have already been to Mars and beyond…

teleportation and anti-gravity are REAL, and have been in use by the secret government for DECADES.

our brave shuttle astronauts died in vain =(

at least nasa has the sense to quit using rockets! =)

44. I am not Herbert

Sorry, they are not real at all.

I wish they were, but they are just not.