Virgin Galactic's winged spaceship built to take tourists on trips 60 miles above the Earth crashed during a test flight above the Mojave Desert. Early reports confirmed one person dead.
It was the aircraft's fourth powered flight.
Here's a one-minute Washington Post video report:
According to the Washington Post:
The disaster occurred shortly after 10 a.m., when SpaceShipTwo separated from White Knight Two, which was carrying the vehicle into the air, according to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). ...
The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the crash.
London's Telegraph reports:
The pilots had just fired up the rocket engines of the SpaceShipTwo craft for the first time in more than nine months.
The test flight program had been held up by a series of setbacks in the engineering design of the engines.
Watch this space
The final frontier for orbital tourism has slipped out of reach for a little longer. Reaching above and beyond the friendly skies has been elusive for commercial tourism companies.
It's been 13 years since US entrepreneur Dennis Tito became the world's first paying space tourist when he purchased an eight-day vacation aboard the International Space Station for a rumored $20 million.
Branson's effort -- owned by Virgin Group and Aabar Investments PJS -- has been the most high-profile space tourism attempt since.
Virgin Galactic has taken more than $70 million in deposits from about 700 would-be passengers for the flights, at $250,000 a pop.
Each two-and-a-half-hour flight on SpaceShipTwo would have been held six passengers and two pilots, flying 60 miles above the the Earth and breaking orbit (though not going far into space).
Other space tourism efforts include XCOR Aerospace, which has created Lynx, a two-seat, piloted rocket plane that will offer half-hour suborbital flights for $95,000.
There's also been talk of an attempt at crowd-funding space travel.
Earlier:Everything you need to know about space travel
NB:Image of SS2 during rocket-powered flight in 2013, courtesy of Virgin Galactic.