Here’s a brief summary of what’s known about the explosion that took place Thursday afternoon at Mojave Air and Space Port, based on reports in the Bakersfield Californian, LA Times, and LA Daily News, the most detailed accounts so far:
- Three people have been killed, two at the scene of the explosion and one later, after surgery.
- Three are injured, two in critical condition and one in serious condition.
- All of the casualties are employees of Scaled Composites, and the explosion took place at a test site operated by the company.
- The explosion took place while the workers were performing a “cold flow” test to see how nitrous oxide flowed through the system. The nitrous oxide was under pressure but there was nothing to ignite the propellant.
- Burt Rutan, at a press conference Thursday night, said that they had performed similar tests a number of times in the past without incident and believed it to be safe. He said he couldn’t speculate on the cause of the explosion.
- Rutan refused to comment on what effect this would have on the development of SpaceShipTwo, saying that the company has declined to answer questions about that development for a year and a half. “I suddenly don’t have a change for that.”