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Las Cruces Bulletin newspaper


SpaceShipTwo crashes in test flight, 1 pilot killed

By Todd G. Dickson

     A powered flight test Friday, Oct. 31, of SpaceShipTwo in Mojave today had a "serious anomaly" resulting in a total loss of the spaceship and the death of one of its pilots.

     An Associated Press story has the California State Police confirming a fatality of one of SpaceShipTwo’s two pilots. The surviving pilot reported is severely injured.

     The latest report from NBC News, which is a media partner of Virgin Galactic, is as follows:

     The explosion scattered debris across a two-mile swath of the desert floor outside Mojave, California, and came after the plane was released from its WhiteKnightTwo carrier airplane. SpaceShipTwo was testing its rocket engine in flight for the first time in more than nine months.

     "During the test, the vehicle suffered a serious anomaly resulting in the loss of the vehicle," Virgin Galactic said in a statement. "The WhiteKnightTwo carrier aircraft landed safely. Our first concern is the status of the pilots."

     Jesse Borne, an officer at the California Highway Patrol, told NBC News that there was one fatality and one major injury.

     The flight originated from the Mojave Air and Space Port, about 95 miles (150 kilometers) north of Los Angeles. The Federal Aviation Administration said two crew members were aboard SpaceShipTwo — which is consistent with Virgin Galactic's practice of having two test pilots who are equipped with parachutes. The pilots have not yet been identified.

     Photographer Ken Brown, who was covering the test flight, told NBC News that he saw an explosion high in the air and later came upon SpaceShipTwo debris scattered across a small area of the desert. The Mojave airport's director, Stuart Witt, said the craft crashed north of Mojave. He deferred further comment pending a news conference that is scheduled for 2 p.m. PT (5 p.m. ET).

     Keith Holloway, a Washington-based spokesman for the National Transportation and Safety Board, said "we are in the process of collecting information." The FAA said it was also investigating the incident.

     Before Friday's flight, the most recent aerial outing was on Oct. 7, when SpaceShipTwo took an unpowered, gliding flight back to the Mojave runway.

     The latest test got off to a slow start. SpaceShipTwo spent more than three hours on the Mojave runway, slung beneath its WhiteKnightTwo mothership, while the ground team assessed whether the weather was right for flight. The go-ahead was finally given for takeoff at 9:19 a.m. PT (12:19 p.m. ET).

     It took WhiteKnightTwo about 45 minutes to get to 50,000 feet, the altitude at which it released SpaceShipTwo for free flight.

     The flight was part of Virgin Galactic's long-running program to test SpaceShipTwo in preparation for suborbital trips to the edge of outer space. Virgin Galactic had said the first trip to an outer-space altitude — usually defined as 100 kilometers, or 62 miles — could have taken place before the end of the year, depending on how the tests went.

     The company's billionaire founder, Richard Branson, was hoping to ride on the first commercial flight next year. After the crash, Branson said in a Twitter update that he was "flying to Mojave immediately to be with the team."

     More than 700 customers have paid as much as $250,000 for a ride on the rocket plane.

     Further updates prior to the next edition of the Bulletin will be posted in the Daily Bulletin section of the website.

Top Stories for Friday, October 31st, 2014:

Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 4, and heading up the ballot in New Mexico is the governor’s race in which Republican Gov. Susana Martinez is seeking a second term and is being challenged Democrat Attorney General Gary King.


By Todd G. Dickson

Las Cruces Bulletin

In a work session, Monday, Oct. 27, a majority of the Las Cruces City Council favored going ahead with the most recent minimum wage proposal it passed and repealing its earlier more moderate increase.

But that doesn’t mean the minimum wage will inevitably reach $10.10 by 2017, as proposed by what wasoriginally a ballot initiative championed by Comunidades en Acción y de Fé (CAFé). The wage will first increase from $7.50 an hour to $8.40...

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By Todd G. Dickson

Las Cruces Bulletin

At sunrise Thursday, Oct. 23, UP Aerospace successfully launched from Spaceport America, carrying experiments for NASA, as well as a payload of ash remains.

The launch was postponed from Monday, Oct. 20, because of weather, which worked in favor of the flight. With clear, nearly windless condition, Aerospace’s SpaceLoft rocket SL-9 reached its highest elevation to date – an estimated 407,862 feet, or about 77 miles above the Earth’s...

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Bulletin Staff Report

A famous saying imparts the wisdom, “There is nothing like home cooking.”

The Aggies (2-6 overall, 1-3 Sun Belt) have not won a game since Sept. 6. They’ll try to right their ship at 2 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 1, when they play host to the Texas State Bobcats (4-3 overall, 2-1 Sun Belt).

Six-straight losses quickly put a damper on a 2-0 start to the season. In particular, back-to-back road defeats at the hands of previously winless Troy and Idaho,...

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By Alta LeCompte

Las Cruces Bulletin

Southwest Technology Development Institute (SWTDI), founded at New Mexico State University in 1977, led the way in photo-voltaic research. But that’s so 20th century.

The solar industry has matured and the work done at the little cluster of buildings at the end of Research Road is slipping into history. The legacy, however, remains.

Steve Bukowski, SWTDI’s new director and the man with a vision for the institute’s future, points out three...

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By Zak Hansen

Las Cruces Bulletin

The town of Mesilla’s annual Dia de los Muertos celebration returns to the plaza Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 1-2.

Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is a Mexican traditional holiday honoring and celebrating the souls of the deceased, who are believed to return to Earth once a year to visit loved ones. Each year, altars are constructed and adorned with colorful displays, and the favored food and drinks of loved ones are served in...

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By Bill Allen

Greater Las Cruces Chamber of Commerce President

The Greater Las Cruces Chamber of Commerce was honored to have Gov.

Susana Martinez as guest speaker at the annual Membership Update Luncheon on Friday, Oct. 24. Martinez’s passion for children is what has led her to succeed as a prosecutor and now as governor through the impacts she has made in New Mexico schools.

“Our children are the future leaders of New Mexico,” Martinez said. She also reviewed a variety...

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