3 Dead in Space Center Blast

By Peter Fearon,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 27, 2007 5:42 AM CDT
A hazardous materials response team gathers before driving out to an explosion that killed two people and critically injured four others,Thursday, July 26, 2007, at Mojave Air and Space Port in Mojave,...   (Associated Press)
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(Newser) – A third person has died from injuries suffered in an explosion at a Mojave Desert airport where part of billionaire Richard Branson's private space program is being developed, AP reports. The blast occurred during testing of a nitrous oxide propellant system for a space tourism vehicle. Three people were hospitalized, two of them with critical injuries.

The facility is is owned by Scaled Composites, the company, headed by aerospace maverick Burt Rutan, which built SpaceShipOne, the first private manned rocket to reach space. Workers were developing a successor, SpaceShipTwo, for Branson's Virgin Galactic. Trips into space, scheduled to begin in 2009, will cost $200,000.