Virgin Galactic pilot Todd Ericson and NTSB investigators at SpaceShipTwo accident site. Credit: NTSB

Virgin Galactic pilot Todd Ericson and NTSB investigators at SpaceShipTwo accident site.
Credit: NTSB

 

 

UPDATED:

Board Meeting:

Commercial Space Launch Accident – SpaceShipTwo

July 28, 2015

9:30 a.m. ET

 

Webcast, go to:

http://ntsb.capitolconnection.org/

 

Board members of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) will meet Tuesday, July 28, to determine the probable cause of the October 31, 2014 in-flight breakup of SpaceShipTwo that occurred over the skies of Mojave, California.

​SpaceShipTwo is a commercial space vehicle that the Mojave-based Scaled Composites built for Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic spaceline company.

Last year the craft broke up during a rocket-powered test flight, seriously injuring the pilot, Peter Siebold, and killing the co-pilot, Michael Alsbury. Both worked for Scaled Composites.

Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo is shown making a rocket-powered test flight on Jan. 10, 2014. The vehicle crashed during a subsequent rocket-powered test flight on Oct. 31, 2014, killing one pilot and injuring the other. Credit: MarsScientific.com/Clay Center Observatory

Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo is shown making a rocket-powered test flight on Jan. 10, 2014. The vehicle crashed during a subsequent rocket-powered test flight on Oct. 31, 2014, killing one pilot and injuring the other.
Credit: MarsScientific.com/Clay Center Observatory

Feather reentry system

In earlier NTSB statements stemming from the SpaceShipTwo accident investigation, the copilot, who was in the right seat, reportedly unlocked the movable feather reentry system on the craft’s tail prematurely, leading to the breakup of the craft.

The vessel disintegrated in the air. The SpaceShipTwo wreckage was recovered and was stored in a secure location for follow-on examination.

The NTSB operations and human performance investigators interviewed Siebold, the surviving pilot. According to the pilot, he was unaware that the feather system had been unlocked early by the copilot.

Siebold’s description of the vehicle motion to the NTSB was consistent with other data sources in the investigation. He stated that he was extracted from the vehicle as a result of the break-up sequence and unbuckled from his seat at some point before the parachute deployed automatically.

Available data

Recorded information from telemetry, non-volatile memory, and videos were processed to assist the NTSB investigative groups.

Credit: NTSB

Credit: NTSB

An NTSB group reviewed available data for the vehicle’s systems (flight controls, displays, environmental control, etc.) and also reviewed design data for the feather system components and the systems safety documentation.

A vehicle performance group also examined the aerodynamic and inertial forces that acted on the vehicle during the SpaceShipTwo’s ill-fated flight.

Tuesday’s release of information is set to take place within the NTSB Board Room and Conference Center in Washington, D.C., starting at 9:30 a.m. Eastern.

Credit: NTSB

Credit: NTSB

 

NOTE: To view an older Space.com story of mine from last year on the accident, go to:

After SpaceShipTwo Tragedy, How Will Virgin Galactic Return to Flight?

http://www.space.com/28088-virgin-galactic-spaceshiptwo-crash-aftermath.html

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