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Scaled Composites Virgin Galactic

Test site explosion kills three workers

26 Jul, 2007

Three workers at the Mojave Space Port are killed and two others are severely injured as a failure occurs during a test of a nitrous oxide system. A mechanic working several hundred yards from the explosion says it was ‘louder than a sonic boom’. The workers aren’t identified but relatives of 45-year-old Scaled Composites employee Charles ‘Glen’ May say they have been notified by the company that he has died in the accident. Rutan says the test of the NOS propellant system – the ‘laughing gas’ used in hot-rods to boost engine power and in dentists’ offices as anaesthetic – didn’t include any sparking, and SpaceShipTwo’s rocket engine wasn’t fired.

We felt it was completely safe. We had done a lot of these [tests] with SpaceShip One.

Why the accident occurred:

We just don’t know.

Two of the workers died at the scene of the accident, while the third died at hospital following surgery. The injured workers – two critical and one with serious injuries – suffered multiple shrapnel wounds. Several other Scaled employees escaped injury from the explosion.