Virgin Galactic descent device activated early, crash investigators say


Fortune

Federal investigators have pinpointed the issue that led to the deadly crash of a Virgin Galactic spaceship in the Mojave Desert last Friday.

The National Transportation Safety Board, which is leading the investigation, found that a device that slows the aircraft’s descent was deployed too early. The board also noted that pilot error could not be ruled out.

“I’m not stating that this is the cause of the mishap. We have months and months of investigation to determine what the cause was,” Hart said. “We are looking at a number of possibilities, including that possibility (of pilot error).”

The crash of the experimental spacecraft killed co-pilot Michael Alsbury and badly injured pilot Peter Siebold, who had parachuted to the ground and is now being treated at a hospital. Virgin Galactic, the burgeoning space tourism company started by billionaire Richard Branson, was conducting test flights of its SpaceShipTwo aircraft, which was…

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