T hree people have died from an explosion at the Mojave Air and Space Port in Mojave, California, about 80 miles north of Los Angeles. Two of the three died as a result of Thursday’s blast, and a third person died today, a nursing supervisor at Kern Medical Center in Bakersfield told CNN.
All six people were employees of Scaled Composites. Aerospace engineer Burt Rutan founded the aerospace development firm, which developed SpaceShipOne — an air-launched suborbital spaceplane that completed the first privately funded human spaceflight June 21, 2004.
The blast occurred during a test of nitrous-oxide-fueled rocket motor components for SpaceShipTwo — a craft designed to carry passengers into suborbital flights. The vehicle is being developed as a joint venture between Scaled Composites and Virgin Group Limited. At the time of the explosion, nitrous oxide was flowing through the motor’s fuel injectors during a “cold fire test.”
“We were doing a test that we believed was completely safe,” said Rutan. “We don’t know why it exploded.”