The spacecraft suffered a "major malfunction" killing one of the two pilots. The Associated Press reported that the SpaceShipTwo exploded shortly after it was released from the WhiteKnight aircraft that carried it, causing it to crash near Cantil in Kern County, California. The pilot was able to eject to safety. The co-pilot suffered fatal injuries.
"Virgin Galactic should be saluted as pioneers in space travel and this accident is a shock to all of us interested in the success of private space flight," said MUFON Executive Director Jan C. Harzan, reached at his Newport Beach, CA, headquarters office today. "Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families of both pilots and to the entire Virgin Galactic team."
According to the Virgin Galactic website: "The first WhiteKnightTwo, christened VMS Eve after Richard Branson's mother, was revealed to the public for the first time in July 2008 and started its test flight program later that year. At the first roll-out in Mojave it was described as an aviation milestone and for good reason: it is the largest all carbon composite aviation vehicle ever built and the most fuel efficient of its size. It has a unique capability to carry heavy payload (around 35,000 lbs) to high altitude (around 50,000 ft) and a range of over 2,000 nautical miles. Remarkably, for a vehicle of its size, it is also capable of performing high and zero g maneuvers."