Billionaire Richard Branson promised Saturday that he would find out what caused one of his Virgin Galactic commercial spaceships to crash Friday, in an accident that killed one pilot and seriously injured another.
“We are determined to find out what went wrong,” Branson said at the California facility where the spacecraft was developed.
Branson, the bombastic mogul who also owns airlines, a wireless brand and many other businesses, has long been at the forefront of efforts to charge wealthy tourists a hefty sum for even a brief moment to enjoy the weightlessness and view of Earth from space. But the commercial space industry is facing tough questions after two accidents in one week: the crash of Virgin’s SpaceShipTwo on Friday and the explosion of the unmanned Orbital Sciences Antares rocket on Tuesday.
Branson didn’t provide any new details about the accident on Saturday. Officials from the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating. Branson said safety will always come first.
“We’re not going to push on blindly,” he said. “We’re going to learn from what went wrong.
“We’ve always known that commercial space travel is an incredibly hard project,” he added. “We’ve been undertaking a comprehensive testing program for many years, and safety has always been our No. 1 priority.”