3 Seconds to Disaster: The SpaceShipTwo Accident

Pete Siebold under canopy approaches the desert floor. (Credit: Mark Greenberg/Virgin Galactic)
Pete Siebold under canopy approaches the desert floor. (Credit: Mark Greenberg/Virgin Galactic)

On Oct. 31, 2014, the crown jewel of Sir Richard Branson’s ambitious space effort, SpaceShipTwo, broke up during a flight test over the Mojave Desert. Scaled Composites co-pilot Mike Alsbury was killed while Pete Siebold managed to parachute to safety.

This week, Parabolic Arc is publishing a multi-part series on that accident. The series is based upon the accident investigation conducted by the National Transportation Safety Board and Parabolic Arc‘s own reporting about the SpaceShipTwo program.

The stories will take you inside the pre-flight briefings as the pilots and their colleagues at Scaled Composites and Virgin Galactic prepared for the program’s riskiest flight test.

You will be in Mission Control, the cockpit of SpaceShipTwo, and in the skies above the Mojave Desert as a flight that began so well went tragically wrong.

You will see Pete Siebold’s miraculous survival as the ship breaks up around him and his terrifying descent in temperatures colder than on Mount Everest. You will follow emergency responders as they raced to the stricken pilot’s location.

Finally, there is a detailed look at what happened in the aftermath of the tragedy that took the life of Mike Alsbury.

The Series