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Branson vows to find cause of deadly Virgin rocket crash

Published:Saturday | November 1, 2014 | 3:14 PM
Wreckage lies near the site where a Virgin Galactic space tourism rocket, SpaceShipTwo, exploded and crashed in Mojave, California. - Ap

MOJAVE, California (AP):

Billionaire Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson vowed Saturday to find out what caused the crash of his prototype space tourism rocket, killing one crew member and injuring another, but sounded a cautious note about any move to quickly push the project forward.




In grim remarks at the Mojave Air and Space Port where the craft known as SpaceShipTwo was under development, Branson gave no details of yesterday's accident and deferred to the National Transportation Safety Board, whose team had just arrived.



"We are determined to find out what went wrong," he said, asserting that safety has always been the top priority of the program that envisions taking wealthy tourists six at a time to the edge of space for a brief experience of weightlessness and a view of Earth below.



"Yesterday we fell short," he said. "We'll now comprehensively assess the results of the crash and are determined to learn from this and move forward."



Branson added, however, that "we are not going to push on blindly." He also criticised early speculation.



"To be honest, I find it slightly irresponsible that people who know nothing about what they're saying can be saying things before the NTSB makes their comments," he said.



The pilot killed in the test flight was identified Saturday as Michael Tyner Alsbury, 39, of nearby Tehachapi, who worked for Scaled Composites, the company developing the spaceship for Virgin Galactic.



Alsbury was one of the pilots who flew SpaceShipTwo's first powered flight in April 2013 and was one of three Scaled pilots honored that year by the Society of Experimental Pilots for a technical presentation based on their experience in the craft's flight test program.



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