Investigators say a kind of slow-down system on the Virgin Galactic spacecraft that crashed in the US appears to have been deployed too soon.
The National Transportation Safety Board has highlighted a malfunctioning of what is known as the “feathering” system. But it says it is too soon to say that was to blame.
Christopher Hart, the acting chairman of the US National Transportation Safety Board, said: “We have months and months of investigation to determine what the cause was. We’ll be looking at training issues. We’ll be looking at was there pressure to continue testing. We’ll be looking at safety culture. We’ll be looking at the design, the procedure.”
And Richard Branson, founder of the space tourism company testing the craft, says it is too soon to talk about the future of the project.
“It’s a massive setback,” he said. “It’s horrendous for the families of the test pilot but we’ve now got to pick ourselves up and I have now got to motivate the 400 engineers who have worked so hard on this programme for the last few years and find out what went wrong.”
SpaceShipTwo crashed in California’s Mojave Desert during a test flight on Friday, killing one pilot and badly injuring another.
Almost all of the wreckage needed for the investigation has now been recovered.