this Nov. 1, 2014 file photo, wreckage lies near the site
where a Virgin Galactic space tourism rocket, SpaceShipTwo,
exploded and crashed in Mojave, Calif. The National
Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) will meet July 28 to
determine what likely caused a Virgin Galactic spaceship to
break apart over the Mojave Desert during a test flight 10
months ago, killing the co-pilot and seriously injuring the
The National Transportation Safety Board is considering what
caused a Virgin Galactic spaceship to break apart over the Mojave
Desert during a test flight 10 months ago, killing the co-pilot
and seriously injuring the pilot.
scheduled a meeting Tuesday to consider the likely cause of the
accident. Investigators have been looking into pilot training, the
rocket's design and whether mechanical problems played any role.
said early in the investigation that the co-pilot prematurely
unlocked equipment designed to slow the descent of the spacecraft
during initial re-entry. Simply unlocking the spacecraft's brakes
shouldn't have applied them, but investigators say that might have
happened anyway and that the resulting stress may have contributed
to the spacecraft's destruction.
director of the Space Policy Institute at George Washington
University, said the industry will be looking to see if the NTSB
goes beyond the specific cause of the accident in its findings.
focusing on an immediate cause is usually not enough to understand
deeply how to improve safety," Pace said.
Wayne Hale, the
former manager for NASA's space shuttle program, said
investigators are taught to keep asking why a part failed or why a
pilot made a mistake to get to the real root cause of an accident.
"If you stop too early, you'll fix the wrong thing."
has been proceeding with its plans for space flight and is now
building another craft. Company officials have said in recent
months that their commitment to commercial spacecraft has not
waivered despite the crash and they expect the company to resume
test flights later this year. Eventually, the company envisions
flights with six passengers climbing more than 62 miles above
Hale said the
accident was unfortunate and has certainly made the suborbital
space industry more cautious, but it could yield some positive
"We may come
out of this with a safer and more robust industry in the near
future," Hale said.