Virgin Galactic Updates Everyone on Scaled Composites’ Anomalous Test Flight

Statement from Virgin Galactic

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.

The Virgin Galactic team is cooperating with our partners at Scaled Composites and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) as well as local authorities. We understand that the NTSB is scheduled to arrive in Mojave tomorrow morning (Saturday Nov. 1) to commence their investigation, which is expected to last several days.

Local authorities have confirmed that one of the two Scaled Composites pilots died during the accident. The other pilot parachuted to the ground and is being treated at a local hospital. All of us at Virgin Galactic are deeply saddened by today’s events. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of all those affected by this accident.

George Whitesides, CEO of Virgin Galactic, provided the following statement:

“Our primary thoughts at this moment are with the crew and family, and we’re doing everything we can for them now. I’d like to recognize the work of the first responders who we work with in the Antelope Valley for their efforts on behalf of the team. We’re also thinking of the team members that we have at the companies that have been working on this program.

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’re going to get through it. The future rests in many ways on hard days like this, but we believe we owe it to the team, that has been working so hard on this endeavour, to understand this and to move forward. And that is what we’ll do.”

Sir Richard Branson is on his way to Mojave and is expected to arrive by early Saturday morning.

We understand your interest in additional information. It is our understanding that there will be another press conference over the weekend at the Mojave Air & Space Port. We will post any logistical details as they become available, and we will provide another update from Virgin Galactic at that time in conjunction with the press briefing.

Editor’s Note: Look at the language in the first sentence. Scaled Composites did the flight test. In the past, it’s been Virgin Galactic and its partner Scaled Composites completed a flight test using WhiteKnightTwo (under Virgin’s control) and SpaceShipTwo (still controlled by Scaled). Now that the thing is in pieces all over the Mojave Desert, the test was done by Scaled.

I’ve also heard that Virgin Galactic’s agents that sell tickets are being told to blame Scaled for the tragedy. Partner, meet knife. Knife, meet partner’s back.

This is not going to work. Responsibility for these flights is jointly shared. As is the responsibility for the alterations that were made to SpaceShipTwo that likely played a role in its disintegration. Trying to weasel out of this is not going to work. It will be exposed in due time. This is too big of a disaster for the media to ignore.

Scaled and Virgin need to come together to find out what wrong, fix the technical problems, and resolve the management and organizational dysfunction that contributed to it. This. Won’t. Help.