(MOJAVE, Calif.) — Broken pieces of a Virgin Galactic experimental spaceship have been found 35 miles from the aircraft’s main wreckage area, federal accident investigators said.
Speaking at a press conference Monday night, the acting National Transportation Safety Board Chairman, Christopher Hart, said the parts recovered were so small they were able to be blown that distance by the wind. The largest piece found so far is a section of a wing.
The 60-foot spacecraft broke up Friday over the Mojave Desert. While initial results show that a system to slow the space plane’s descent deployed too soon, the NTSB has not concluded what shattered the craft.
One pilot, Michael Tyner Alsbury, 39, was killed and another, Peter Siebold, was injured in the incident.
Investigators aren’t sure which of the pilots unlocked the craft’s feathering system, Hart said. The surviving pilot has not been interviewed yet.
Investigators believe once the feathers were unlocked, “aerodynamic forces” buffeting the spacecraft at the speed of sound caused the feathers to start rotating.
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