October 31, 2014 6:20 pm
Updated: October 31, 2014 10:38 pm

Virgin Galactic ship crashes during test flight, one dead, one injured


WATCH ABOVE: A Virgin Galactic spacecraft, the kind they hope will one day carry tourists into space, crashed on a test flight. One crewmember is dead and another is seriously injured. Jackson Proskow reports.

TORONTO – Virgin Galactic‘s SpaceShipTwo suffered what the company termed an “in-flight anomaly” during a powered test flight Friday in the Mojave Desert.

The California Highway Patrol says there is one fatality and one major injury.

This image from video by KABC TV Los Angeles shows wreckage of what is believed to be SpaceShipTwo in Southern California’s Mojave Desert on Friday, Oct. 31, 2014.


Reports say that the craft was released from the plane that carries it to high altitude and exploded after its rocket motor ignited.

At a news conference Friday evening, officials said they don’t know what caused the crash and that they had not noticed anything wrong beforehand.

“I detected nothing that appeared abnormal,” said Stuart Witt, CEO of the Mojave Air and Space Port.

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British billionaire Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Galactic, has been at the forefront of the space tourism industry, offering civilians a chance to experience weightlessness.

Branson and the members from the National Transportation Safety Board are expected to arrive shortly to investigate

Branson released a statement Friday night saying it was “among most difficult trips I have ever had to make” but that he wants be “with the dedicated and hardworking people who are now in at this devastating loss.”

“Space is hard — but worth it,” Branson wrote. “We will and move forward together.”

WATCH: Virgin Galactic official discusses crash of SpaceShipTwo

Kern County Fire Department reported it was heading to a location in the Mojave Desert, location of SpacePort America. California Highway Patrol Officer Darlena Dotson said the agency was responding to a report of a crash in the Cantil area.

Virgin Galactic has been the front-runner in the fledgling space-tourism industry. SpaceShipTwo, typically flown by a crew of two pilots, has been under development in the desert northeast of Los Angeles.

WATCH: Virgin Galactic spokesperson confirms one dead following crash

In January, SpaceShip Two made its third rocket-powered supersonic flight — it’s last prior to Friday’s — reaching a record 71,000 feet.

Eventually, the spacecraft will take customers — who pay $250,000 per flight — to the edge of space. More than 700 customers have already booked a flight.

WATCH: One person was killed and another suffered major injuries when an aircraft used by Virgin Galactic for space travel experimentation crashed Friday. CBS’s Bigad Shaban has details.

–with files from The Associated Press

© 2014 Shaw Media

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