Update on fatal Mojave Airport explosion

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.”

6 comments to Update on fatal Mojave Airport explosion

  • tom

    I’m afraid this is the Apollo 3 for personal spaceflight — a disaster on the ground that is likley to delay and greatly affect future operations in the air. A sad day, indeed.

  • tom

    Correction, I meant Apollo 1. Like Apollo 1, however, 3 died.

  • The three dead are Eric Blackwell, Charles May & Todd Ivens.

    Michael Potter of P&M Aircraft reported that two people from Scaled Composites came to his place of business Thursday looking for parts from a Boeing 727. They informed him that the company was working on engines with stepped-up thrust for the new spaceship.

  • Peter Shearer

    This has got to be the most horrific accident Scaled has ever had. It’s unbelievable.

    At first I was thinking that it was just a shock blast from an exploding Nitrous tank but the photos look charred so some of the HTPB must of ignited right? Odviously not all of it though as that much fuel exploding would’ve left a massive crater. Was thinking that if the nitrous tank ruptured that the HTPB fuel would burn until the Nitrous had expanded enough to cease being dense enough to burn with the HTPB. But the question, remains how did a simple pressurizing test cause an explosion?

    Very bizarre incident considering the safeness of the procedure and the safety record of Scaled. VERY sad for those who died and their loved ones.

    This will add some time to the deadline of flying SS2. Not just for the investigation and revision of procudures but constructing a new test stand and trailer and etc equipment. It’s a good thing Burt never discussed the deadline before now… This setback may not appear to be as bad to the public when they do make SS2 public.

    Does anyone know if they were pressurizing the tank in preperation of a rocket test?

    It’s horrible, just horrible, I hope they find answers…

  • Kelci

    Miss you very much Todd. Thanks for our last dance….
    Love you,

  • Johnny

    Is there any progress as to discovering the cause of this accident? Its strange to me that an investigation carried out by the California Occupational Safety and Health Administration cites Scaled Composites for violation in training with regard to the health and safety of its employess, yet says nothing about what the cause of the explosion was.

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