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Virgin Galactic crash prompts review of U.S. aviation group

Nov. 4, 2014, Washington, D.C. - The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), which is investigating Friday’s fatal crash of a spaceship being tested by Virgin Galactic, will review the involvement of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in permitting the vehicle for test flight, acting NTSB chairman Christopher Hart said on Monday.


November 4, 2014
By The Globe and Mail

“We’d look to see if the oversight was adequate, to the extent that there is oversight in this industry,” he said.

“I know it’s different than commercial aviation, but we would look at all of those factors. That’s part of the total picture as to why did this happen. If there is some inadequate oversight and one thing led to another and the next thing you know we’re looking at pieces on the desert floor, then we would need to have that,” Mr. Hart said.

Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo broke up some 50,000 feet above California during a test flight on Friday, strewing debris in the Mojave Desert. One of the two test pilots died.

SpaceShipTwo, developed by the fledgling space-tourism company of billionaire entrepreneur Richard Branson, was designed to carry wealthy passengers on short rides into space, with Virgin Galactic planning to begin offering its first flights to paying customers next spring.

The crash came three days after the unmanned rocket of another private space company, Orbital Sciences Corp, exploded during liftoff from a commercial launch pad in Virginia on a mission to deliver cargo to the International Space Station under contract with NASA.

On Monday, Mr. Branson vowed to determine the cause of Friday’s crash and correct the problem.