Virgin Galactic’ prototype commercial spaceship SpaceShipTwo, designed to provide a suborbital thrill ride into space before returning to Earth as a glider, crashed on Friday during a test flight over the Mojave Desert, California.
The loss of SpaceShipTwo comes on the heels of the explosion late Tuesday of an unmanned commercial resupply rocket seconds after launch at NASA's facility on the Eastern Shore of Virginia.
The successive crashes come as a setback to private commercial space flight operators in USA that imagined successful transportation of suborbital flights –either manned or unmanned.
For instance, Virgin Galactic had been hoping to be the pioneer of space tourism – selling customers tickets at $250,000 each to ride more than 60 miles above the Earth’s surface. The company has taken deposits of up to $250,000 each from more than 700 people to reserve seats on the first space tourism flights.
Technical glitches like these once again raise the question of safety of people traveling in these flights and future of commercial space flights.
The crash comes 10 years after SpaceShipOne reached a crucial milestone, becoming the first privately built vehicle to fly to the edge of space two times in two weeks. SpaceShipOne, became the first private spacecraft to reach space in 2004.
Richard Branson founded Virgin Galactic with the goal of making it the world’s first space tourism company. He is the founder of Virgin Group, which has hundreds of companies, including Virgin Atlantic and Virgin America airlines.