Flight Breakup During Test Flight Scaled Composites

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In Flight Breakup During Test Flight Scaled Composites SpaceShipTwo N339SS Near Koehn Dry Lake, California October 31, 2014

On October 31, 2014 at 1007:32 Pacific Daylight Time Scaled Composites SpaceShipTwo reusable suborbital rocket N339SS broke up into multiple pieces during a test flight over the Mojave Dessert. The pilot Peter Siebold managed to survive however the co-pilot Michael Alsbury died. “The primary reason for this test flight included conducting a 38 second burn to test the new hybrid motor which used a nylon fuel grain and nitrous oxide to generate thrust, and a feathered reentry that was to be at a speed of Mach 1.2” (NTSB) The mission for SpaceShipTwo consisted of an air drop from approximately 50,000ft from White
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This callout was to alert the pilot of a transonic bobble would occur as the vehicle accelerated through the transonic region and became supersonic. The next step was to unlock the feather by moving the feather lock handle from the locked to unlocked position when SpaceShipTwo reached a speed of Mach 1.4.” (NTSB) The copilot did not heed the instructions of the pilot to unlock the feather. The cockpit image recorder showed that 0.5 seconds after making the Mach 0.8 callout the copilot started to unlock the feather at approximately Mach 0.82. Because of this premature movement of the feather locking system, the large lifting force (keeping the feather extended) generated by the tail, overpowered the resistance capability of the feather actuators (keeping the feather retracted), essentially folding the fuselage over the tailboom. “The pilot, age 43 held a flight instructor certificate, commercial pilot certificate, with ratings for airplane single-engine and multiengine land, instrument airplane, and glider. He held FAA authorization to operate the SpaceShipOne, SpaceShipTwo, Proteus and White Knight Two experimental aircraft as the pilot-in-command. The pilot held a second-class medical certificate with no limitations. The pilot was hired by Scaled Composites in December 1996 as a design engineer.” (NTSB) He had been a test pilot for the SpaceShipOne program. The pilot transitioned to the SpaceShipTwo program in
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