The spacecraft broke up after being released from a carrier aircraft at high altitude, according to Ken Brown, a photographer who witnessed the plane breaking apart.
One pilot was found dead inside the spacecraft and another parachuted out and was flown by helicopter to a hospital, Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood said.
Friday’s flight marked the 55th for SpaceShipTwo, which was intended to be the first of a fleet of craft. This was only the fourth flight to include a brief rocket firing. The rockets fire after the spacecraft is released from the underside of a larger carrying plane. During other flights, the craft either was not released from its mothership or functioned as a glider after release.
The problem happened about 50 minutes after takeoff and within minutes of the spaceship’s release from its mothership, said Stuart Witt, CEO of the Mojave Air and Space Port.
Good luck picking up the pieces and carrying on.