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Virgin Galactic neerstorting

Richard Branson, Virgin Galactic se stigter, het Saterdag gesê hy sal  voortgaan met sy kommersiële ruimtevlugpogings na die noodlottige neerstorting van ’n vuurpylvliegskip tydens ’n toetsvlug waarin een van twee loodse dood is.

Volgens Branson is dit ’n verwoestende verlies.

Lees BBC News berig in Engels

A safety device on the Virgin Galactic spacecraft that crashed on Friday killing a test pilot had been deployed early, US investigators say.

Air safety chief Christopher Hart said the “feathering” device, designed to slow the craft on re-entry, activated without a command from the pilots.

But he said it was too soon to confirm any possible cause of the crash.

Media reports had focused on the fuel tanks and the engine, but Mr Hart said both were found intact.

Earlier, Virgin Galactic rebuffed criticism of its safety practices.

The company said any suggestion that safety had not been its top priority was “categorically untrue”.

Virgin Galactic had aimed to send tourists into space early next year, and has already taken more than 700 flight bookings at $250,000 (£156,000) each.

Christopher Hart talks about the crash of Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo near Mojave, California November 2Christopher Hart said the inquiry was still in its early stages, and no cause had yet been determined
Wreckage from the crash of Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo lies in the desert near Cantil, California November 2Investigators have found most of the wreckage, which is strewn all around the Mojave desert

Mr Hart, from the US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), told reporters that the feathering device was supposed to be activated at Mach 1.4 (1,065mph; 1,715km/h), but had been deployed at Mach 1 during the test flight.

He said one of the pilots had enabled the device, but the second stage of its deployment had happened “without being commanded”.

“Shortly after the feathering occurred, the telemetry data terminated and the video data terminated,” he said.

The feathering device lifts and rotates the tail to create drag, slowing the craft on its descent.

He said SpaceShipTwo’s fuel tanks and engine were found intact, without any sign of being breached.

NTSB investigators have now found almost all of the parts of the crashed spacecraft as part of an inquiry they say could take many months to complete.


The pilots

Peter Siebold, left, was piloting SpaceShipTwo alongside co-pilot Michael Alsbury, rightPeter Siebold, left, survived the incident but his co-pilot, Michael Alsbury, died

Michael Alsbury

  • Aged 39
  • Married with two children
  • 15 years of flying experience
  • First flew in SpaceShipTwo in 2010
  • Flew craft’s first rocket-powered run in April 2013

Peter Siebold

  • Aged 43
  • Married with two children
  • Received pilot’s licence when just 16
  • Started working for Scaled Composites in 1996
  • Had spent 2,000 hours in 35 different fixed-wing aircraft

Will crash set back space tourism?