Investigators at the Virgin SpaceShipTwo accident have sent a ‘human performance’ team to examine the actions of the pilots during the fatal test flight.
The premature deployment of a tail mechanism, designed to slow the vehicle’s descent into the atmosphere from space and possible human error were to blame for the crash in the Mojave desert on Friday.
The suborbital rocket broke up shortly after its separation from the special jet aircraft that carries it to high-altitude. Video footage from the cockpit shows co-pilot Michael Alsbury, who died in the crash, release a lever to unlock the tail section eight seconds after the engine ignited.
Pilot Peter Siebold managed to parachute clear but remains in hospital. Investigators are yet to speak with him about the events and said the inquiry into the cause of the crash could take months.
The test flight was to be part of a series of outings that the Virgin Galactic company hoped would lead to commercial passenger space trips by next year.