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Spaceship Crashes in California Desert, Killing One and Severely Injury Another

A Virgin Galactic SpaceShip Two rocket plane exploded and crashed during a test flight Friday, Oct. 31, killing one crew member and seriously injuring another, according to authorities. The fiery crash was captured on video and played on media outlets across the world as the plane dropped away from its carrier airplane and fired up its hybrid rocket engine. The blast scattered debris across a two-mile area of the desert north of Mojave outside of Los Angeles, according to NBC News. One pilot was killed at the scene and the other was able to parachute to the ground and was transferred to Antelope Valley Hospital, according to Kern County Deputy Fire Chief Michael Cody. Both pilots reportedly worked for Mojave-based Scaled Composites, according to reports by NBC News. The test flight was important because Virgin Galactic had planned to use this SpaceShip Two to fly passengers on suborbital trips to the edge of space as early as next year, according to media reports, which also have indicated that a nearly identical rocket is already under construction with more than 700 customers, including celebrities Ashton Kutcher and Justin Bieber having paid as much as $250,000 to take a ride. The pilots on the plane from which the SpaceShip dropped away from called WhiteKnightTwo were able to land safely. A National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) team has been at the crash site over the weekend to determine the probable cause of the incident. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) also reportedly is investigating the crash. The fatal flight on Halloween was part of SpaceShip Two's years-long test program by Virgin Galactic, a company founded by billionaire Richard Branson who it is said was hoping to be on the first commercial flight next year. He told the media that "'We are determined to find out what went wrong.'" He reportedly flew to the crash site and said that he still "'would like to see the dream living on,'" according to NBC News. Branson said that anyone who wants their money back for a future flight will get a refund, NBC News reported. Friday's crash was the second disaster in less than a week suffered by a private space company. Last Tuesday (Oct. 28) an Antares rocket built and launched by Orbital Sciences Corp. Exploded after liftoff from Wallops Island, Virginia, destroying a cargo ship full of supplies bound for the International Space Station.

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