The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) officials who are investigating the deadly crash of a Virgin Galactic spaceship, which has claimed life of one pilot and seriously injured other, on Sunday discovered that a function that assists the spacecraft to descend into the atmosphere was deployed early, giving clear indications of error committed by the pilot.
The federal safety officials are leading a probe into the probable cause that led the spacecraft to crash during a test flight at the Mojave Desert in California on Friday.
Christopher Hart, acting chairman of the NTSB, on Sunday said that a key safety feature called rotating tail boom in the SpaceShipTwo which is responsible for re-entering the atmosphere was rotated early.
Hart, however, stressed that it was too early to come to any conclusion.
“I’m not stating that this is the cause of the mishap. We have months and months of investigation to determine what the cause was,” Hart said.
Hart said that the video footage from the spaceship’s cockpit showed that the co-pilot had opened early feathering system, which assists in descending into the atmosphere from the space. Due to early unlocking of the feathering system, the space plane’s tail section began to fold after two seconds.
SpaceShipTwo was in the testing phase in an attempt to bring commercial spaceflight to tourists.
According to the investigating officials, the on-site inspection is expected to get over within four to seven days. But the whole sifting process through the engine inspection, images, video footage, interviews, data analysis and other physical evidence gathered from the site could take up to 12 months.
Hart said the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) will also assist in the investigation.