astroengine writes: Test flights of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo are on schedule to begin again this year – this time with its own pilots, the chief executive of Richard Branson’s space startup said Friday. The first in a series of planned passenger spaceships was destroyed on Oct. 31, 2014, during a fatal test flight being conducted by manufacturer Scaled Composites. The National Transportation Safety Board, which is investigating the accident, determined that co-pilot Michael Alsbury, who died in the crash, released the ship’s moveable tail section early. The vehicle was not traveling fast enough for aerodynamic forces to keep the so-called “feather” pinned in place, as designs called for. As a result, the ship was torn apart, jettisoning pilot Pete Siebold in the process, who managed to parachute to safety.
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