Mojave (CA) – An explosion at Scaled Composites – the makers of SpaceShipOne which won the Ansari X prize – has killed three people and left three others critically injured. The explosion happened at the Mojave Air and Space Port near Edwards Air Force base in California and did not occur during a rocket launch.
Company employees were testing a nitrous oxide, more commonly known as laughing gas, injector for the upcoming SpaceShipTwo craft. According to famous aircraft developer and company owner Burt Rutan, the chemical was at room temperature and under pressure.
Nitrous oxide will be used as the fuel for future sub-orbital flights by Scaled Composite’s aircraft in partnership with Virgin Atlantic. Passengers will pay approximately $200,000 for a short trip into space and a few minutes of weightlessness.
Update - The company has just reported that one of those critically injured has died, bringing the death toll to three people.