Friday, July 27, 2007

Explosion at Scaled Composite's Mojave Test Stand

Image Courtesy KNBC.com


At 2:45pm Thursday (July 26th, 2007), an explosion occured at the Scaled Composites test stand, located in the northeast corner of the Mojave airport. Three people died -- Eric Blackwell, Charles May, and Todd Ivens, and three people were critically injured. All six people are Scaled Composites employees. The group was doing a cold flow test of the nitrous oxide plumbing of the spaceship two hybrid engine. It is not clear what caused the explosion. Scaled Composites released the following statement on their website:


Scaled Composites, LLC is deeply saddened to report the loss of three of our colleagues. Eric Blackwell, 38, Glen May, 45, and Todd Ivens, 33, were killed by an explosion that occurred during a routine cold-flow test of the oxidizer system we’re developing for SpaceShipTwo. Three other Scaled employees were seriously injured and are hospitalized.

We are doing our best to take care of the families of the deceased as well as the injured and their families, and we hope you will join us in keeping them in your thoughts and prayers.

As you may imagine, the Scaled family is devastated by this event. As we grieve together, we are also beginning to gather up all of the information to determine what caused this accident. We are committed to learn all we can from this tragedy and move ahead.


The condition of the three surviving employees is not known at this time, although it is believed that they are in a hospital in Bakersfield. At this time I don't have any information as to where flowers or what have you might be sent. We will have to wait on those details.


It is also important to keep in mind that just as the development of general aviation has been fraught with danger, so too has and will likely be the path of general spaceflight. The pioneers of flight, such as Otto Lillienthal, and today's rocketeers understand and accept this risk. It is important that the public understands it too.

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