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Critic of Virgin Galactic: Get Out of the Space Business


Richard Branson and his vision of bringing space travel to ordinary people is getting flack from experts in the field in the wake of the explosive crash that killed his pilot Friday.

h/t: Daily Mail

A rocket scientist has urged Virgin Galactic to ‘stay out of the space business’ and ‘go sell mobile phones’ in the wake of a fatal explosion aboard one of its spacecraft.

Carolynne Campbell-Knight, a rocket propulsion scientist at the International Association for the Advancement of Space Safety (IAASS), said Richard Branson’s private space line should ‘give up’ following the test flight crash in which a pilot was killed.

Michael Alsbury, 39, died at the controls of Virgin’s experimental SpaceShipTwo vessel on Friday after the sub-orbital plane exploded at 45,000ft shortly after engaging its engines. His co-pilot, Peter Siebold, who was seriously injured, is now ‘alert and talking’, according to the company.

Mrs Campbell-Knight said: ‘They should stop, give up. Go away and do something they might be good at like selling mobile phones – they should stay out of the space business.’

She claimed she had contacted those involved in the project in around 2009 or 2010 to raise her concerns about the use of nitrous oxide, which she said can ‘go bang in a very unpredictable way’.

But she stressed it was not yet clear what caused the latest incident, adding: ‘There’s any number of things that could have brought it down.’

Mrs Campbell-Knight, co-partner of Knights Arrow, an engineering project, is one of a number of space flight experts who have accused Virgin Galactic of ignoring warnings over its safety procedures in the wake of a fatal explosion aboard one of its spacecraft.

Senior engineers and propulsion scientists say they spent years telling Richard Branson’s private space line its procedures are ‘outdated’, needlessly secretive, and could lead to people getting killed.

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“If we can overcome it, we will make absolutely certain that the dream lives on,” [Richard Branson] said.

Alsbury, who a sheriff’s spokesman said was from Tehachapi, California, was a project engineer and test pilot at Scaled Composites, a Northrop Grumman Corp subsidiary that built and designed the spacecraft for Virgin Galactic.

He was flying for the ninth time aboard SpaceShipTwo, including serving as the co-pilot on the vehicle’s first rocket-powered test flight on April 29, 2013, according to his biography on the company’s website.

He was found dead in the aircraft, Kern County Sheriff Donny Youngblood said on Friday.

Siebold parachuted from SpaceShipTwo and was found a mile from the fuselage, Youngblood said. He had moderate to major injuries and was taken by helicopter to Antelope Valley Hospital, the Sheriff’s Office said in a statement.

What do you think? Do you think Branson was wantonly reckless in ignoring warnings? Or is this type of accident a small price to pay for the advancement of space travel?

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