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One Crew Member Killed in Virgin Galactic Spacecraft Crash (Updated)

Virgin Galactic said it will work with authorities to determine what went wrong.

Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo crashed during a test flight above the Mojave Desert in California on Friday, killing one of two crew members, according to a spokesman with the Kern County Sheriff’s Office.

The other pilot ejected and parachuted to the ground, but was transferred to a local hospital with “moderate to major injuries,” Kern County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Ray Pruitt said in an interview with Re/code.

Pruitt said it’s unclear why the aircraft went down, but that debris covers several miles. In an earlier statement Virgin Galactic said only that there was a “serious anomaly” during the flight.

“Today was a tough day,” said Chief Executive George Whitesides, during an afternoon press conference at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California. “We are going to support the investigators as we figure out what happened today.”

“We owe it to the folks who were flying the vehicle as well as the folks who have been working on them to understand this and to move forward, which is what we’ll do,” he added.

Officials didn’t release the names of the crew members nor provide an update on the status of the surviving pilot.

The Kern County Sheriff’s Office is maintaining the scene, but the Federal Aviation Administration and National Transportation Safety Board will be assuming the investigation.

The FAA previously confirmed that two crew members were aboard the vehicle and said it was investigating.

The SpaceShipTwo is a suborbital plane, developed to enable space tourism. The incident raises immediate questions about the impact on the nascent private spaceflight industry. Hundreds of customers have already paid $200,000 or more to reserve a spot aboard the vehicle.

Virgin Galactic first noted the problem on Twitter and has been providing updates there:

Virgin Galactic’s partner, Scaled Composites, which developed the vehicle, was conducting a powered test flight. The White Knight Two carrier plane, which lifts and releases SpaceShipTwo, landed safely.

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