Virgin was warned before about rocket engine safety

Agence France-Presse

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An expert says she warned Virgin before over safety concerns after the death of three engineers in a rocket engine explosion in 2007

'SETBACK' FOR SPACE TOURISM. Debris from the crash site of the Virgin Galactic Spaceship Two rests in the Mojave desert, some 30 miles north of Mojave, California, USA, October 31, 2014. Spaceship Two crashed during a test flight killing the co-pilot and seriously injuring the pilot. Photo by Michael Nelson/EPA

THE HAGUE, Netherlands – An expert at an international organization specializing in space safety said Sunday, November 2, she had warned Virgin before over safety concerns after the death of three engineers in a rocket engine explosion in 2007.

“I warned them that the rocket motor was potentially dangerous,” said Carolynne Campbell, a rocket propulsion expert at the Netherlands-based International Association for the Advancement of Space Safety (IAASS).

“We were concerned about what was going on at Virgin Galactic and that what they were doing wasn’t up to speed,” she told AFP.

Early theories about the causes of the crash have focused on the fuel being used in SpaceShipTwo, amid reports the company was repeatedly warned of concerns about its safety.

The National Transportation and Safety Board has opened an official probe into Friday’s Virgin Galactic spacecraft crash that left one pilot dead and another seriously injured, but said it could take up to a year.

The IAASS is a non-profit organization dedicated to furthering international cooperation and scientific advancement in the field of space systems safety, based in Noordwijk, which is also home to the European Space Agency’s technical research center.

Campbell said that in 2009, she sent copies of a scientific paper for the IAASS on the dangers of rocket propulsion “to various people at Virgin, but it was ignored.”

She again warned Virgin Galactic in a subsequent telephone conversation, but her warnings still went unheeded, Campbell said.

Campbell said she would not like to speculate on the cause of the crash, “because I don’t have all the data.”

Friday’s accident was not the first tragedy to strike the Virgin Galactic program. In 2007, three people were killed after a rocket designed for use in SpaceShipTwo exploded at the Mojave Air and Space Port.

British tycoon Richard Branson of Virgin hit back at early theories surrounding what may have caused the accident.

“To be honest, I find it slightly irresponsible that people who know nothing about what they’re saying can be saying things before the NTSB makes their comments,” he said. –


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