MOJAVE, United States (AFP) – Authorities who Saturday carried out their first full day of investigation into a US spacecraft crash that killed one pilot and seriously injured another said probing the incident could take a year.
At a news conference late Saturday, National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) acting chairman Christopher Hart said debris from the SpaceShipTwo rocket crash was strewn over an area five miles (eight kilometres) long, indicating a likely in-flight breakup, and would be part of an investigation lasting up to 12 months.
British tycoon and Virgin chief Richard Branson meanwhile insisted earlier in the day that he was undeterred and that his dream of commercial space travel was still alive.
The doomed Virgin flight – the 35th by SpaceShipTwo, which is meant to carry tourists on short but expensive trips to space – marked the first time the spaceship had flown on a new kind of plastic-based rocket fuel mixture.
A team of federal investigators launched a probe of the causes of Friday’s accident, which dealt a devastating setback to commercial space tourism.
Although piecing together the facts and analysis surrounding the accident would be lengthy, Hart said the on-site investigation would last four to seven days. Hart earlier told reporters that investigators were entering unknown territory since it was “the first time we have been in the lead of a space launch that involved persons on board.”