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I just found out about today's horrific crash of one of Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo spaceplanes, the VSS Enterprise. It apparently was due to an 'anomaly.' I realize that details are still unavailable, but perhaps someone knows just enough to answer this question.

Given that there exists one other SpaceShipTwo (the VSS Voyager), with three more planned. Will whatever malfunction occurred impact these craft? Are any major design changes in order?


I expect that we won't know the full story for some time; the investigation is ongoing. However, perhaps details may come out within the next week or so that could shed light on the situation.


Update:

The investigation is going to take a long time. As this article says,

The investigation into the Virgin Galactic spacecraft crash in California's Mojave Desert could take about a year, the head of the US transport safety agency has said.

I expect that this question won't receive any answers until the final report is released.

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    $\begingroup$ Given that nothing is known yet about the cause of the malfunction, any answer given now would be speculation. $\endgroup$ – Hobbes Nov 1 '14 at 8:15
  • $\begingroup$ @Hobbes Yes, unfortunately. I don't expect that I'll get an answer any time soon, but I thought I might as well post it and see when information becomes available. $\endgroup$ – HDE 226868 Nov 1 '14 at 11:20
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    $\begingroup$ According to media reports, the finger is currently pointing at a premature deployment of the feathering system. Presumably, aerodynamic forces exceeded the vehicle's structural limits due to deployment at too low an altitude for the airspeed / too high an airspeed for the altitude. It doesn't necessarily implicate the overall concept or basic design of the vehicle. $\endgroup$ – Anthony X Nov 9 '14 at 4:28
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According to a Virgin Galactic spokesman, the NTSB has determined the pilot unlocked the feathering mechanism too early. The aircraft's speed was too low to keep the feather in place, so it deployed, causing so much drag that structural failure ensued.
As of 2015-01-10, Scaled Composites has built most of the second airframe. They are proceeding with the construction of the airframe. It is not known yet if the NTSB will mandate any design changes, but Virgin expects they'll be able to accommodate them in the build.

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The cause of the accident will have to be clearly investigated. For all we know, the choice of fuel could be completely irrelevant to the accident, and could also have happened with the old rubber fuel at this point in time.

Once the evidence is compiled, the accident cause is properly investigated and understood, design recommendations are made: then we can modify the remaining vehicles.

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