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SpaceShipTwo (Credit: Virgin Galactic)
SpaceShipTwo (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

It’s a rough week in the spaceflight world. Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo has crashed during a test flight over the Mojave Desert in southern California. The company announced through its Twitter feed that SpaceShipTwo had “suffered a serious anomaly.”

The ship carries two pilots onboard during flight, and both are equipped with parachutes. It’s unclear whether the two were able to successfully eject prior to the crash, though a report from NBC News says that parachutes were reportedly sighted over the desert. Update: according to the California Highway Patrol, one pilot is dead, and another is seriously injured.

The WhiteKnightTwo cargo aircraft, which is used to lift SpaceShipTwo up to its launch altitude, landed safely. Virgin Galactic is slated to hold a press conference at 2 p.m. today to discuss the accident.

Virgin Galactic recently changed the fuel powering SpaceShipTwo’s engines from a rubber-based fuel to a plastic-based fuel, though it’s unclear if that change – which had been extensively tested on the ground – contributed to the accident.

The craft that crashed today is the successor to SpaceShipOne, which was funded by Paul Allen. It’s designed to bring passengers on a suborbital flight into space, with the hefty price tag of $250,000. Virgin Galactic has said that it has hundreds of passengers lined up to take a ride in SpaceShipTwo.

This is the second commercial spaceflight accident this week. On Tuesday, an Antares Rocket operated by Orbital Sciences crashed back onto the launchpad after operators determined that it would not be able to make it into orbit.

Update: ABC 7 Los Angeles posted the following picture of the crash site to its Twitter account:

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