On 29th October, an unmanned supply rocket exploded shortly after launch from its launch pad in Virginia, US. The spacecraft, Antares, was on a cargo re-supply mission to the International Space Station and was built by Orbital Sciences Corp., a US manufacturer.
The blast is likely to have seriously damaged the launch pad and support infrastructure, meaning that even if the fault is quickly identified and corrected, restarting Antares flights again may take a long time. No-one was injured and an investigation team is going through the data to try to establish the cause of the explosion. The launch was insured for about $40 million (NASA incentives cover only), whereas the asset value, which is not covered, is said to be around $200 million.
On 31st October, a second accident for a US space company occurred, when passenger spaceship Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo broke up during a test flight in California's Mojave Desert, killing one pilot and seriously injuring the other. The craft's launcher, carrier aircraft WhiteKnightTwo, landed safely.
Investigation of the crash has found that a function designed to aid the space plane's descent was deployed early, causing the accident. The system requires a two-step process to be activated, and while the co-pilot unlocked the system, the second step occurred unprompted by the pilot. The US National Transportation Safety Board and the Federal Aviation Administration are both conducting investigations into the crash. Investigators have warned it could take up to a year to complete a full report into the incident. The Virgin Galactic spacecraft crash is set to generate losses of $46 million. The placement is led by American International Group (AIG) and brokered by JLT.