Investigators Say Virgin's SpaceShipTwo's Fuel Didn't Explode

By Gary Cutlack on at

The grim destruction of Virgin's space ambitions may not have been caused by a fuel explosion as suggested by many, with investigators said to have found the fuel tanks and engine intact on the ground.

With numerous space experts rushing to blame Virgin Galactic's use of a hybrid propulsion system involving nitrous oxide and plastic fuel for the crash, this pushes the investigation in a new direction. Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board in the US claim the space plane's "feathering" landing assistance system had been activated before it should've been, further confusing early attempts to work out what went wrong.

Acting NTSB boss Christopher Hart said the feathering system appeared to have activated "without being commanded," which suggests the plane may have broken up due to activating its tail drag feature at the wrong time. [Guardian]