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Virgin boss Branson “attacked” by stingray and door in Cayman Islands

Celebrity investors rethinking Virgin Galactic space flights after fatal crash. Would you still want to go to space?

Richard_Branson_March_2015_(cropped)

British billionaire Sir Richard Branson had a vacation to remember for all the wrong reasons, after he was injured by a stingray and a bullet-proof glass door in quick succession in the Cayman Islands.

The Virgin tycoon said he had been “in the wars,” revealing that his conservation trip “didn’t quite go to plan.”

Branson joined ocean conservationist Guy Harvey for a swim with stingrays off the coast of Grand Cayman, and one of the creatures confused Branson for food and bit into his arm.

The travel and music mogul posted a picture of a bloody and bruised bite mark on his forearm on Twitter.com and told fans he was bitten “by a shark.”

“We were surrounded by stingray, as well as stunning coral reefs and tropical fish… But the rays were feeding all around, and they mistook yours truly for their food,” he subsequently related on his website.

“Suddenly I felt a painful sensation on my wrist – they have one heck of a painful kiss! Rays are actually part of the shark family, so I’ve now been kissed by a shark.

“We made it back to shore and I put on a brave face as I got some treatment… I’m still proudly campaigning to protect rays, even if I did get kissed! Apparently it gives seven years good luck.”

Unfortunately, the talismanic kiss didn’t do much for Branson, who went on to have an unfortunate run-in (literally) with a glass door.

“As my anniversary was coming up, I popped into a local jewellery shop to look for a gift for Joan [his wife]. I strolled purposefully into the shop, not noticing there was a glass door in my way. Crash!” he recounted.

“I hit the glass head first and I got this painful cut above my left eye. It was bullet-proof glass! We quickly set up a makeshift operating theatre, where I was given three stitches.

“By now I was feeling rather woozy, and quite embarrassed, but I was still smiling.”

Despite the injuries, Branson still managed to compete in the Legends at Camana Bay tennis tournament.

“We had a lot of fun on court and hopefully made people smile. It certainly made me forget all about my injuries, and I’m well on the road to recovery now,” he concluded.

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Moment Virgin Galactic spaceship exploded at 45,000ft: One pilot dead and another critical as Richard Branson's 500Mill space tourism plane blows up testing new fuel over California desertvirgin-space-crash

WECKAGE OF VIRGIN GALACTIC’S SPACESHIPTWO IN CALIFORNIA’S MOJAVE DESERT.

The crash of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo in California’s Mojave Desert on Friday, which killed one pilot and hospitalised another, has reportedly caused many of the millionaire clients of the ambitious programme to rethink their flights into space.

An anonymous source told Britain’s Independent newspaper that more than 30 people had been talking about asking for a refund, a move that could cost Virgin chief Sir Richard Branson millions.

“Before this tragic event happened I had been thinking of pulling my money anyhow because there had been various reports saying it doesn’t stand a chance of getting into space,” the source said, adding, “I am giving serious thought to pulling out.”

One of the pioneering space tourism programme’s highest-profile customers, Britain’s Princess Beatrice, is among the celebrities who will no longer be boarding the Virgin Galactic spacecraft after last week’s fatal accident.

“Beatrice was excited by the idea of space tourism, but there is no way she will be going on one of the flights, if they are ever allowed to take place,” a source close to Buckingham Palace told the Daily Mail.

Likewise, Switzerland-based asset manager Peter Ulrich von May told The Independent he no longer wishes to travel into space with Virgin Galactic and has requested a refund.

“I want out. I subscribed seven years ago at 63, am still an active private pilot and in good health but who knows how long it will now take. I have already informed VG of my wish – no reply yet,” he said.

At least 700 people – including Hollywood luminaries and pop music stars the likes of Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, Tom Hanks, Leonardo DiCaprio, Ashton Kutcher, Russell Brand, Katy Perry, Justin Bieber, and Lady Gaga – have purchased tickets for Virgin Galactic space flights, which sell for US$250,000.

Following Friday’s tragedy, Branson announced on the Virgin Galactic site that refunds would be available, and a spokesperson said that a number of people have asked for their money back.

“We can confirm that less than three percent of people have requested refunds,” the spokesman said.

The anonymous source nevertheless told The Independent that some people are “die-hard Richard Branson supporters and they will go on it whatever.”

The Virgin boss has insisted Virgin Galactic can move forward and vowed to travel on board the space flight with his relatives once safety tests have been completed.

“We’ve spent many, many years building a spacecraft, a mothership, a space port, that I think can do the job and do the job safely,” he told Sky News.

“We will not start taking people until we’ve finished a whole massive series of test flights and until myself and my family have gone up, and until we feel that we can safely say to people ‘we’re ready to go.’”

“We need to be absolutely certain our spaceship has been thoroughly tested – and that it will be – and once it’s thoroughly tested and we can go to space, we will go to space.”


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NASA Antares cargo rocket explodes on take-off to International Space station in launch half the Eastern seaboard waited to see

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  • Space plane broke into pieces above Mojave Desert, California, on first flight using experimental rocket fuel
  • One pilot died in the crash, another parachuted out of falling plane but was seriously injured in the disaster
  • SpaceShipTwo plane had swapped rubber-based rocket fuel for a higher-performing plastic blend today
  • More than 700 people - including Lady Gaga, Justin Bieber and Katy Perry - have paid $250,000 for tickets
  • Witnesses who rushed to falling debris reported seeing dead pilot strapped into his seat with body parts missing 
  • Virgin founder Richard Branson has sunk $500million into space company, which launched in 2004
  • Branson had previously said his company 'can't lose anybody' and be successful space flight operator

This is the moment Virgin Galatic's spacecraft exploded miles above the desert, killing one of its pilots, in its first test flight loaded with an experimental new rocket fuel.

The SpaceShipTwo plane, designed to run the first ever passenger flights into space, split into pieces and fell to earth two minutes after being launched mid-air from a carrier plane over California's Mojave Desert.

Wreckage rained from the sky as one pilot managed to eject from the cockpit using a parachute, while the other was reportedly left strapped to his seat as he plummeted to earth and died.

The pilot who ejected also suffered serious injuries and is now in hospital. Virgin has not yet said who the pilots were - though only four men were cleared by the FAA to pilot the craft.  

Today's flight was the first time SpaceShipTwo had taken to the skies using a new, solid plastic fuel instead of the rubber-based propellant which powered earlier flights. Virgin founder Richard Branson is flying urgently to the scene of the accident.

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Fatal moment: The Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo plane is pictured above coming to pieces after a mid-air launch uses an experimental rocket fuel. It crashed to the ground in a remote region of California's Mojave Desert, killing one pilot and seriously injuring another

Fatal moment: The Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo plane is pictured above coming to pieces after a mid-air launch uses an experimental rocket fuel. It crashed to the ground in a remote region of California's Mojave Desert, killing one pilot and seriously injuring another

Fatal launch: SpaceShipTwo, left, is seen above moments after it detatched from WhiteKnightTwo, the twin-hulled airplane which carries the main vessel to 45,00ft before dropping it to make the sub-orbital space flight by itself 

Fatal launch: SpaceShipTwo, left, is seen above moments after it detatched from WhiteKnightTwo, the twin-hulled airplane which carries the main vessel to 45,00ft before dropping it to make the sub-orbital space flight by itself 

Pulling away: The rocket engine, using a new plastic-based polyamide fuel, can be seen starting to fire, right, as SpaceShipTwo streaks away from the carrier

Pulling away: The rocket engine, using a new plastic-based polyamide fuel, can be seen starting to fire, right, as SpaceShipTwo streaks away from the carrier

Explosion: Fragments of the plane plummeted to earth after it started to break apart, white smoke pouring, in the fatal accident

Explosion: Fragments of the plane plummeted to earth after it started to break apart, white smoke pouring, in the fatal accident

Parts of the crashed spacecraft in the Mojave desert. SpaceShipTwo was flying under rocket power after being released from its carrier craft - then Virgin tweeted that it had 'experienced an in-flight anomaly.'

Parts of the crashed spacecraft in the Mojave desert. SpaceShipTwo was flying under rocket power after being released from its carrier craft - then Virgin tweeted that it had 'experienced an in-flight anomaly.'

Two pilots were onboard, and authorities confirmed one was dead, with the second being taken to hospital in Lancaster with serious injuries aboard a helicopter (pictured)

Two pilots were onboard, and authorities confirmed one was dead, with the second being taken to hospital in Lancaster with serious injuries aboard a helicopter (pictured)

Two pilots were onboard, and authorities confirmed one was dead, with the second being taken to hospital in Lancaster with serious injuries aboard a helicopter (pictured)

Two pilots were onboard, and authorities confirmed one was dead, with the second being taken to hospital in Lancaster with serious injuries aboard a helicopter (pictured)

Victims? Four men are registered as SpaceShipTwo pilots with the FAA - Frederick 'CJ' Sturckow (far left), Michael Masucci, Peter Siebold (center right, arms folded) and Todd 'Leif' Ericson (not pictured). It is not known which of them were flying today

Victims? Four men are registered as SpaceShipTwo pilots with the FAA - Frederick 'CJ' Sturckow (far left), Michael Masucci, Peter Siebold (center right, arms folded) and Todd 'Leif' Ericson (not pictured). It is not known which of them were flying today

Onlookers saw at least one parachute from the craft, which has two crew members. One bystander, space blogger Doug Messier, raced to the wreckage and reportedly saw the dead pilot strapped into his seat, missing body parts.

In an interview uploaded to Youtube, he told Space.com: '...We drove out and found one of the debris areas, there was debris all - it had hit the edge of the road. there were pieces of the fuselage and pieces of debris on the road, and also in the brush all around.

'There was a seat with a body in it - I don't know who it was.

'I didn't get a look of it or come close to it for obvious reasons. There was a shoe, a boot with a foot in it on the road and parts of body.'

Virgin Galactic issued a statement saying: 'Virgin Galactic's partner Scaled Composites conducted a powered test flight of SpaceShipTwo earlier today.

'During the test, the vehicle suffered a serious anomaly resulting in the loss of SpaceShipTwo. WK2 [which carries SpaceShipTwo into the air] landed safely.

'Our first concern is the status of the pilots, which is unknown at this time. We will work closely with relevant authorities to determine the cause of this accident and provide updates ASAP.' 

Richard Branson also spoke out, saying: 'Thoughts with all at Virgin Galactic & Scaled, thanks for all your messages of support. I'm flying to Mojave immediately to be with the team.'

Decline and fall: How the plane climbed tens of thousands of feet before exploding and plummeting to earth

Decline and fall: How the plane climbed tens of thousands of feet before exploding and plummeting to earth

Emergency measures: Parachutes were seen amidst the wreckage in the Mojave, as senn in this image from an ABC channel

Emergency measures: Parachutes were seen amidst the wreckage in the Mojave, as senn in this image from an ABC channel

Before: Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo in an earlier, successful flight. All previous powered missions used a different rocket fuel

Before: Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo in an earlier, successful flight. All previous powered missions used a different rocket fuel

'Space is hard and today was a tough day': Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides discussed the difficulties of space flight in a press conference after the crash

'Space is hard and today was a tough day': Virgin Galactic CEO George Whitesides discussed the difficulties of space flight in a press conference after the crash

Not long ago, Branson say saying that any fatalities in his space program could be bring it to a halt - unlike the efforts of NASA, which has lost many personnel.

Speaking to the Guardian, Branson said, 'Everybody who signs up knows this is the birth of a new space program and understands the risks that go with that.

'The biggest worry I had was re-entry. NASA has lost about 3 per cent of everyone who's gone into space, and re-entry has been their biggest problem.'

'For a government-owned company, you can just about get away with losing 3 per cent of your clients. For a private company you can't really lose anybody.'

In a press conference Friday afternoon, George Whitesides, chief executive of Virgin Galactic, said; ‘Our primary thoughts at the moment are with the crew and families and we are doing everything we can for them now.'

'Space is hard, and today was a tough day. The future rest on hard days like this.'

Stuart Witt, who is in charge of the Mojave Air and Space Port, where SpaceShipTwo was launched today, also remained optimistic about the future of space travel.

He said: 'Stay the course. This is not easy. If it was easy it would not be interesting to me and my colleagues standing next to me.'

‘We are doing this for you and your generation. It is a cause far greater than any one of us singularly. I compare it to the Magellan expedition [the first circumnavigation of the Earth].’

WhiteKnightTwo, the carrier plane, took off at 9:20am this morning, carrying SpaceShipTwo. Fifty minutes later, at 10:10am, it had reached cruising height and the vehicles detached. Just two minutes later, an 'in-flight anomaly' was reported, and the spacecraft fell to pieces, with fatal results. 

PLAYING WITH FIRE: SWITCH TO EXPERIMENTAL NEW FUEL TO SEND EXPLODED SPACE PLANE EVEN HIGHER 

The fatal Virgin Galactic voyage today was the first time one of their space planes had been tested with a new, high-performing fuel.

SpaceShipTwo took off from the space port in the Mojave desert, California, tanked up with polyamide grain fuel - a type of solid plastic - rather than a rubber-based fuel which had powered all previous tests.

Earlier, successful flights, had used hydroxyl-terminated polybutadiene, or HTPB, as the main ingredient in the chemical mix for its sub-orbital journeys.

But Virgin Galactic announced in May that it was making the switch, with the hope that it could propel the plane to even greater heights.

Speaking to NBC News at the time, Virgin Galactic CEO said: 'We made the decision to go with a polyamide, which is a fancy way of saying a type of plastic.

'Frankly, we had good performance from both of them, but as we look for the final range of test flights, we decided to go with the polyamide grain.'

Implying the switch would be straightforward, he said: 'It basically is the same cartridge. You just plug it in, and you connect the plumbing in a slightly different way.'

He added that it had tested better in several performance measures.

Burner: Pictured above is a Newton engine, also under development by Virgin Galactic. It doesn't use the polyamide fuel

Burner: Pictured above is a Newton engine, also under development by Virgin Galactic. It doesn't use the polyamide fuel

Cars and emergency vehicles rushed to the remote desert spot to help at the crash site

Cars and emergency vehicles rushed to the remote desert spot to help at the crash site

Pet project: Richard Branson and SpaceShipTwo designer Burt Rutan are pictured above posing with a model of the spaceplane and its launching craft

Pet project: Richard Branson and SpaceShipTwo designer Burt Rutan are pictured above posing with a model of the spaceplane and its launching craft

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), has launched an investigation into the crash.

A spokesman for the agency said: 'Just after 10am PDT today, ground controllers at the Mojave Spaceport lost contact with SpaceShipTwo, an experimental space flight vehicle.' 

'The incident occurred over the Mojave Desert shortly after the space flight vehicle separated from WhiteKnightTwo, the vehicle that carried it aloft.'

'Two crew members were on board SpaceShipTwo at the time of the incident. WhiteKnightTwo remained airborne after the incident.' 

Two pilots fly in SpaceShipTwo's cockpit during a test. They are equipped with parachutes, and after the anomaly, at least one chute was seen over desert. 

A closer look at the wreckage from the explosion

A closer look at the wreckage from the explosion

SpaceShipTwo has four FAA approved pilots: Frederick 'CJ' Sturckow, Michael Masucci, Todd 'Leif' Ericson and Peter Siebold.

David MacKay, Virgin Galactic's British chief pilot, could also have been flying the vehicle.

Sturckow, 53, is a former NASA pilot and was hired by Virgin Galactic in May 2013 after an illustrious career including 1,200 hours in space and lengthy military service.

He lives in Lakeside, California with his wife, earned his aviator wings in 1987 and was deployed overseas with the military to Japan, South Korea, the Philippines and Bahrain. He flew 41 combat missions during Operation Desert Storm and led 30 plane airstrikes into Iraq and Kuwait. During his service, he logged more than 6,500 fight hours in more than 60 different aircraft.

According to his NASA profile, he was selected by the space agency in December 1994 and subsequently worked in roles including the Lead for Kennedy Space Center and Chief of the Astronaut Office International Space Station Branch.

He was part of the first International Space Station assembly mission in 1998 and was on part of three other ISS missions from 2001 and 2009.

In 2011, he was named as the backup commander for the penultimate mission of the Space Shuttle program, allowing Commander Mark Kelly to support his wife, Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, as she recovered from an attempted assassination in Tuscon. 

CJ Sturckow gets splashed with water after guiding Virgin Galactic's private SpaceShipTwo through an unpowered 'glide flight'
Pilot Michael Masucci celebrates as well with a little water

Celebrations: Pilots CJ Sturckow (left) and Michael Masucci, are soaked in celebration after an earlier test flight where SpaceShipTwo flew without turning on its engines. It is not clear which pilots were in the vessel today

Along with Sturckow, 51-year-old Michael Masucci - known as 'Sooch' - works out of Virgin Galactic's Mojave, California, location to conduct flight training and testing. He joined the team in 2013.

Masucci, a retired U.S. Air Force (USAF) Lieutenant Colonel has more than 30 years of civilian and military operational and test flying experience and has logged more than 9,000 flying hours in 70 different types of airplanes and gliders.

Before joining Virgin Galactic, he served as a U-2 combat pilot in several operations and instructed at the USAF Test Pilot School, while also serving as a Branch Chief. As a U-2 test pilot he was instrumental in the development and testing of the aircraft's glass cockpit and power upgrade programs, according to AeroNews.

The married dad also worked for XOJET Inc., a private company based in Brisbane, California where he captained a Citation X, a business jet aircraft.

SpaceShip2 coming in for a safe landing during a previous run

SpaceShip2 coming in for a safe landing during a previous run

Branson christening the WhiteKnightTwo, which landed safely today

Branson christening the WhiteKnightTwo, which landed safely today

Siebold flew his first solo flight and gained his pilot’s license at 16 - the youngest age possible - and went on to teach flight classes at the San Luis Obispo Airport while he was a student at Cal Poly. He completed his degree in 2001.

The 43-year-old, who lives in Tehachapi, California with his wife, was one of the test pilots for SpaceShipOne, a experimental spaceplane that completed the first manned private spaceflight in 2004. As a design engineer at its aerospace company Scaled Composites, Siebold was responsible for the simulator, navigation system, and ground control system for the SpaceShipOne project.

In 2009, he was awarded the Iven C. Kincheloe award - the most prestigious award a test pilot can receive - for his role as chief test pilot on the Model 348 WhiteKnightTwo plane, used to lift the SpaceShipTwo spacecraft to release altitude.

By the time of his award, he had logged about 2,500 hours of flight time in 40 different types of fixed wing aircraft, MustangNews reported.

On October 7, Virgin Galactic tweeted: 'Pilots Pete Siebold (Scaled) and CJ Sturckow (Virgin Galactic) have landed #SpaceShipTwo safely after another great test flight.' 

HOW VIRGIN GALACTIC WILL TAKE PASSENGERS TO SPACE

SpaceShipTwo has been under development at Mojave Air and Spaceport in the desert northeast of Los Angeles.

SpaceShipTwo is carried aloft by a specially designed mothership and then released before igniting its rocket for suborbital thrill ride into space and then a return to Earth as a glider. 

Ticket cost: The starting price for flights is $250,000 (£150,000) - the first ceremonial flight will be undertaken by Richard Branson and his family. 

Training: Passengers are required to go through a 'Pre-Flight Experience Programme', including three days of pre-flight preparing onsite at the spaceport to ensure passengers are physically and mentally fit to fly.

Once aboard: SpaceShipTwo will carry six passengers and two pilots. Each passenger gets the same seating position with two large windows - one to the side and one overhead.

A climb to 50,000ft before the rocket engine ignites. Passengers become 'astronauts' when they reach the Karman line, the boundary of Earth's atmosphere, at which point SpaceShipTwo separates from its carrier aircraft, White Knight II. The spaceship will make a sub-orbital journey with approximately six minutes of weightlessness, with the entire flight lasting approximately 3.5 hours.The spaceship accelerates to approximately 3,000 mph - or nearly four times the speed of sound

A climb to 50,000ft before the rocket engine ignites. Passengers become 'astronauts' when they reach the Karman line, the boundary of Earth's atmosphere, at which point SpaceShipTwo separates from its carrier aircraft, White Knight II. The spaceship will make a sub-orbital journey with approximately six minutes of weightlessness, with the entire flight lasting approximately 3.5 hours.The spaceship accelerates to approximately 3,000 mph - or nearly four times the speed of sound

The space ship is 60ft long with a 90inch diameter cabin allowing maximum room for the astronauts to float in zero gravity.

Flight path: A climb to 50,000ft before the rocket engine ignites. Passengers become 'astronauts' when they reach the Karman line, the boundary of Earth's atmosphere, at which point SpaceShipTwo separates from its carrier aircraft, White Knight II.

The spaceship will make a sub-orbital journey with approximately six minutes of weightlessness, with the entire flight lasting approximately 3.5 hours. 

The spaceship accelerates to approximately 3,000 mph - or nearly four times the speed of sound

Flight frequency: Initially one per week, eventually to have two flights per day. 

SpaceShipTwo was flying under rocket power after being released from its mothership - then Virgin tweeted that it had 'experienced an in-flight anomaly.'

SpaceShipTwo was flying under rocket power after being released from its mothership - then Virgin tweeted that it had 'experienced an in-flight anomaly.'

Ericson is the most recent addition to the team. He joined in July and passed his FAA check ride in August - meaning he was cleared to be pilot-in-command of WhiteKnightTwo, according to Virgin Galactic's Facebook page.

Before joining Virgin, he was an Operations and Maintenance Group Commander for the United States Air Force. He graduated from the Air Force Academy in 1991 and went on to clock up 23 years of military experience. He has logged more than 8,500 flight hours in over 90 diverse aircraft types.

In his role with the Air Force, he was in charge of safety for around 600 staff working in flight operations and maintenance. He also previously served as the Chief of Safety for the Air Force Test Center. 

The photo from the first captive carry of SpaceShipTwo in 2010

The photo from the first captive carry of SpaceShipTwo in 2010

The ship attached to its mothership

The ship attached to its mothership

In May, the company announced it was switching the fuel used in the vehicle's hybrid rocket motor, hydroxyl-terminated polybutadiene, a form of rubber, to a polyamide-based plastic.

A HISTORY OF DELAYS

July 2008 - Branson predicts that  the maiden space voyage will take place within 18 months

October 2009 - Virgin Galactic says initial flights will take place from Spaceport America 'within two years'

December 7, 2009 - SpaceShipTwo unveiled and Branson tells ticket holders that flights will being in 2011 

April 2011 - Branson says that due to delays flights will not begin for another 18 months 

April 29, 2013 - SpaceShipTwo has first test flight, but only achieves a speed of 920 mph, less than half the speed Branson predicted

May 14, 2013 - Branson says first flight will take place on December 25, 2013 

September 2014 - Branson says first flight will happen in February or March of 2015 

During a media tour of Virgin Galactic's Mojave facilities on October 4 that marked the tenth anniversary of the final flight of SpaceShipOne, the suborbital vehicle that won the $10-million Ansari X Prize, company officials said they expected to resume powered test flights 'imminently' once qualification tests of the new motor were done.

At the International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight in Las Cruces, New Mexico, on October 15, Virgin Galactic chief executive George Whitesides said the company had completed those qualification tests.

'We expect to get back into powered test flight quite soon,' he said.

SpaceShipTwo has been under development at Mojave Air and Spaceport in the desert northeast of Los Angeles.

SpaceShipTwo is carried aloft by a specially designed jet and then released before igniting its rocket for suborbital thrill ride into space and then a return to Earth as a glider.

Seats on the flights into space are already being snapped for £250,000 ahead of the spring launch at Spaceport America in New Mexico. 

Branson’s big project has also attracted a slew of big name passengers happy to pay for this once in a lifetime experience, including newlyweds Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie; Justin Bieber and his manager Scooter Braun; Lady Gaga, who plans to try and sing in space; former pop star Lance Bass, who has long been vocal about his desire to head to space; Ashton Kutcher, who was the 500th customer to purchase a ticket; Tom Hanks; Bryan Singer; and Princess Beatrice, who would be the first royal in space and who dates Dave Clark, an executive at Virgin Galactic. 

Russell Brand also got a ticket for his birthday from ex-wife Katy Perry when the two were married. Perry bought a ticket as well so Brand would not have to go alone.

Stephen Hawking and Kate Winslet are also set to fly, but got their seats for free. Winslet because she is married to Branson’s nephew, Ned RocknRoll, and Hawking because Branson wanted to offer the legendary astrophysicist a chance to go into space. 

However, Sir Richard is facing a 'backlash' from some of the nearly 700 passengers who have already paid for a ticket on the craft.

Some stumped up the fee as long ago as 2005, but still have no idea when they will eventually reach space.

The 700 takers for the flights are already benefiting from their ticket purchase, which by extension enters them into an exclusive club that has seen them visit Necker Island and the Mojave Desert with Branson along with undertaking G-force training. 

Rocket Launch failure

  • Orbital Sciences Antares rocket was due to take off from Wallops Island, Virginia, at 6.22pm
  • Accident occurred 6 seconds after liftoff  
  • No casualties - and damage limited to Wallops launchpad 
  • Team said there appeared to be 'no issues' before launch 
  • Craft contained food and experiments designed by schoolchildren 
  • Was also carrying 'some classified cryptographic equipment'
  • Launch is part of $1.9bn private contract to launch cargo to space station 
  • Flight would have been visible from Massachusetts all the way to South Carolina 
  • Last night's attempt abandoned with seconds to go after a sailboat entered a 'hazard zone' area near the launch site 

A Nasa rocket due to be visible across the East Coast on its way to the International Space Station has blown up on the launchpad.

The rocket exploded six seconds after liftoff from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport on Wallops Island in Virginia.

Engineers said there were no problems reported before the launch, and have begun a full investigation.  

Scroll down for video of the explosion

Fire engulfed the launchpad, which it appears has sustained major damage - although Nasa confirmed there were no casualties from the launch.

The rocket exploded six seconds after liftoff from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport on Wallops Island in Virginia.

The rocket exploded six seconds after liftoff from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport on Wallops Island in Virginia.

WHERE WAS IT GOING?

Antares was due to launch an unmanned Orbital-3 Cygnus spacecraft to deliver more than 5,000lbs of supplies to the International Space Station - including science experiments, experiment hardware, spare parts, and crew provisions - as part of a $1.9billion deal with NASA. 

Outfitted with a new, more powerful upper-stage engine, the Antares rocket was packed with 5,055 pounds (2,293 kg) of supplies, science experiments and equipment, a 15 percent increase over previous missions.

'A mishap has occurred. we have lost the vehicle,' controllers said.

The Orbital Sciences Corp had scheduled the launch of its Antares rocket for 6.22pm Eastern time October 27.

Conditions for the launch were perfect - but as it left the launchpad, the rocket appeared to explode.

Officials said there were no casualties from the explosion -and the damage was contained to the launch facility.

They also say there appeared to be no issues before the launch.

'There was failure on launch,' NASA spokesman Jay Bolden said. 

'There was no indicated loss of life. 

Bolden added, 'There was significant property and vehicle damage. Mission control is trying to assess what went wrong.'

Nasa staff were working to secure the area, and to collect data from the craft as an major investigation in to the explosion began. 

'NASA and Orbital Sciences Corp. are gathering data on the failure of the Orbital CRS-3 six seconds after launch,' a Nasa official said. 

'The Orbital Sciences team is executing its contingency procedures, securing the site and data, including all telemetry from the Antares launch vehicle and Cygnus spacecraft.

Orbital Sciences stock fell 12.7 percent after hours on news of the explosion, down $3.87 per share at $26.50. 

The spacecraft was carrying 'some classified cryptographic equipment, so we do need to maintain the area around the debris in a secure manner,' said Mike Pinkston, the company's Antares program manager.

'Before launch the Orbital team was not tracking any issues.

'It is far too early to know the details of what happened,' said Mr. Frank Culbertson, Orbital's Executive Vice President and General Manager of its Advanced Programs Group.

'As we begin to gather information, our primary concern lies with the ongoing safety and security of those involved in our response and recovery operations. 

'We will conduct a thorough investigation immediately to determine the cause of this failure and what steps can be taken to avoid a repeat of this incident. 

'As soon as we understand the cause we will begin the necessary work to return to flight to support our customers and the nation's space program.' 

Conditions for the launch were perfect - but as it left the launchpad, the rocket appeared to explode.

Conditions for the launch were perfect - but as it left the launchpad, the rocket appeared to explode.

The launch appeared to be going perfectly - until the rocket left the ground

The launch appeared to be going perfectly - until the rocket left the ground

'No injuries have been reported, and Orbital reports that all personnel around the Wallops Flight Facility launch site have been accounted for.'

The launch director confirmed that all personnel we accounted for, meaning there were no injuries. 

It appeared the launch pad suffered serious damage from the explosion, raising fears future launches could be affected. 

NASA spokesman Rob Navias said there was nothing urgently needed by the space station crew on that flight. 

In fact, the Russian Space Agency was proceeding with its own supply run on Wednesday. 

Mission controllers were calm throughout the explosion, calmly telling staff 'Launch team, launch team, be advised, stay at your consoles.' 

'This has been a lot of hard work to get to this point,'Orbital Sciences Executive Vice President Frank Culbertson told the launch team just before liftoff.

It was the second attempt to launch the craft.

Antares was due to launch an unmanned Orbital-3 Cygnus spacecraft to deliver more than 5,000lbs of supplies to the International Space Station - including science experiments, experiment hardware, spare parts, and crew provisions - as part of a $1.9billion deal with NASA. 

WHAT IT WAS CARRYING

Nasa's official mission manifest, detailing exactly what was being carried onboard

Nasa's official mission manifest, detailing exactly what was being carried onboard

Outfitted with a new, more powerful upper-stage engine, the Antares rocket was packed with 5,055 pounds (2,293 kg) of supplies, science experiments and equipment, a 15 percent increase over previous missions.

In addition to food, supplies and equipment, the Cygnus spacecraft was loaded with more than 1,600 pounds (725 kg) of science experiments, including an investigation to chemically analyze meteors as they burn up in Earth's atmosphere.

The Cygnus also carried a prototype satellite owned by Redmond, Washington-based startup Planetary Resources Inc., which is developing technology to mine asteroids. The satellite, designated A3, was to be released into space by a commercially owned small spacecraft launcher aboard the station.

NASA spokesman Rob Navias said there was nothing urgently needed by the space station crew on that flight. 

In fact, the Russian Space Agency was proceeding with its own supply run on Wednesday. 

Cygnus was to loiter in orbit until Nov. 2, then fly itself to the station so astronauts can use a robotic crane to snare the capsule and attach it to a berthing port.

The station, a $100 billion research laboratory owned and operated by 15 nations, flies about 260 miles (418 km) above Earth.

Operators were forced to abandon the first attempt at a launch last night, despite perfect weather conditions, because a boat appeared in a 'hazard area' nearby.

Officials said there appeared to be no casualties from the explosion -and the damage was contained to the launch facility. here,t he rocket is shown minutes before it exploded 

Officials said there appeared to be no casualties from the explosion -and the damage was contained to the launch facility. here,t he rocket is shown minutes before it exploded 

'We're aborting today's launch attempt due to a boat downrange in the hazard area,' the space agency said. 

'We will make another #Antares launch attempt tomorrow, Tuesday, October 28 at 6:19 p.m. EDT,' Orbital tweeted soon after. 

The rocket had been due take off from a launch pad at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport on Wallops Island in Virginia.

Its flight would have been visible from Massachusetts all the way to South Carolina, weather permitting. 

The mission represents the fifth launch of the company's Antares rocket in its first 18 months of operations, according to Space.com.

This photo provided by NASA shows the Orbital Sciences Corporation Antares rocket, with the Cygnus spacecraft onboard, Sunday, Oct. 26, 2014, at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia
The Antares will launch with the Cygnus spacecraft filled with over 5,000 pounds of supplies for the International Space Station, including science experiments, experiment hardware, spare parts, and crew provisions. The Orbital-3 mission is Orbital Sciences' third contracted cargo delivery flight to the space station for NASA. Launch is scheduled for Monday, Oct. 27 at 6:45 p.m. EDT. (AP Photo/NASA, Joel Kowsky)

The Antares will launch with the Cygnus spacecraft filled with over 5,000lbs of supplies for the International Space Station, including science experiments, experiment hardware, spare parts, and crew provisions

The Orbital-3 mission is Orbital Sciences' third contracted cargo delivery flight to the space station for NASA

The Orbital-3 mission is Orbital Sciences' third contracted cargo delivery flight to the space station for NASA

Preparations: The Antares rocket is rolled out of the Horizontal Integration Facility to launch Pad-0A at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility October 24

Preparations: The Antares rocket is rolled out of the Horizontal Integration Facility to launch Pad-0A at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility October 24

Another trip: The mission represents the fifth launch of the company’s Antares rocket in its first 18 months of operations.

Another trip: The mission represents the fifth launch of the company's Antares rocket in its first 18 months of operations.

It would have been the fourth cargo delivery mission to the ISS by a Cygnus module.

WHO WOULD HAVE SEEN IT? 

Space enthusiasts living along the Eastern Seaboard would have had have front-row to the launch of the the Orbital Sciences Corp's Antares rocket.

The rocket will take off from Wallops Island, Virginia, at 6.45pm Eastern time.

The further away you are from the launch site in Virginia, the closer to the southern horizon the Antares rocket will appear.

The spacecraft will look like a bright orange star with a small V-shaped tail tracing a low arch from west to east.

In New York City, parts of Pennsylvania and North Carolina, the launch will be visible above the southern horizon 150 seconds after blast-off. 

About 180 seconds into the mission, the rocket will begin to be illuminated by the sun, which could make it appear even brighter. 

NASA is paying for the delivery service. The space agency hired two companies — the Virginia-based Orbital Sciences and California's SpaceX — to keep the space station well stocked once the shuttle program ended.

If all goes according to plan, the Cygnus capsule will reach the space station November 2.

Meanwhile back on Earth, space enthusiasts living along the Eastern Seaboard will have front-row seats to a spectacular sky show.

The further away you are from the launch site in Virginia, the closer to the horizon the Antares rocket will appear against the darkening evening sky.

In New York City, parts of Pennsylvania and North Carolina, the launch will be visible above the southern horizon 150 seconds after blast-off.

Those living in Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington DC will be able to catch a glimpse of the soaring rocket at 5 degree above the southern horizon 120 seconds after the launch.

The rocket will appear in the sky as a bright orange star with a small V-shaped tail tracing a low arch from west to east.

About 180 seconds into the mission, the rocket will begin to be illuminated by the sun, which could make it appear even brighter.

Ready for liftoff: The Orbital Sciences Corporation Antares rocket, with the Cygnus spacecraft onboard, is seen on launch Pad-0A at sunrise at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility, Virginia, October 26

Ready for liftoff: The Orbital Sciences Corporation Antares rocket, with the Cygnus spacecraft onboard, is seen on launch Pad-0A at sunrise at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility, Virginia, October 26

This map shows the maximum elevation that Orbital's Antares rocket will reach during its first-stage engine burn. This elevation in the evening sky depends heavily on where you are observing from

This map shows the maximum elevation that Orbital's Antares rocket will reach during its first-stage engine burn. This elevation in the evening sky depends heavily on where you are observing from

Don't blink: Antares rocket observers should look due south to see the night launch from New York City and northern New Jersey. This map shows how the rocket will appear to soar over the New York City skyline as seen from River Road in North Bergen, New Jersey. The rocket will be visible about 140 seconds after liftoff

Don't blink: Antares rocket observers should look due south to see the night launch from New York City and northern New Jersey. This map shows how the rocket will appear to soar over the New York City skyline as seen from River Road in North Bergen, New Jersey. The rocket will be visible about 140 seconds after liftoff

Skywatchers in Charlottesville, Virginia, should look east-southeast to see the Antares launch. This sky map shows the path of the rocket across the sky as seen from Klockner Stadium at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville

Skywatchers in Charlottesville, Virginia, should look east-southeast to see the Antares launch. This sky map shows the path of the rocket across the sky as seen from Klockner Stadium at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville

This visibility guide for the Antares rocket launch shows where to look in the south-southeast sky from South Clinton Street in Baltimore, Maryland. The rocket should become visible about 99 seconds after liftof

This visibility guide for the Antares rocket launch shows where to look in the south-southeast sky from South Clinton Street in Baltimore, Maryland. The rocket should become visible about 99 seconds after liftof

Observers should look north from the boardwalk of Virginia Beach

Observers should look north from the boardwalk of Virginia Beach

This image shows where the Antares rocket will be visible in the southeast sky from Frederick, Maryland for observers at Baker Park. The rocket should first become visible about 114 seconds after blast-off 

This image shows where the Antares rocket will be visible in the southeast sky from Frederick, Maryland for observers at Baker Park. The rocket should first become visible about 114 seconds after blast-off 

This map shows where and when to look from Baltimore's Fells Point Water Taxi Terminal. the rocket should first become visible about 99 seconds after liftoff

This map shows where and when to look from Baltimore's Fells Point Water Taxi Terminal. the rocket should first become visible about 99 seconds after liftoff

This view shows where and when to see the rocket from the Martin Luther King Jr Memorial in Washington DC. Observers should look toward the Jefferson Memorial to see the rocket when it becomes visible about 96 seconds after launch

This view shows where and when to see the rocket from the Martin Luther King Jr Memorial in Washington DC. Observers should look toward the Jefferson Memorial to see the rocket when it becomes visible about 96 seconds after launch

The two-stage Antares rocket uses a liquid-fueled first stage powered by two engines and a solid motor ATK CASTOR 30XL upper stage to boost Cygnus into orbit.

The powered launch sequence will last about nine and a half minutes from liftoff through the separation of Cygnus module from the rocket.

Antares will ditch its first stage once it has burnt all its fuel, just under 240 seconds after launch, followed by a 47-second coasting phase.

The ignition of the second stage will begin 4 minutes 41 seconds after takeoff, and it will burn for 166 seconds before the Cygnus capsule separates from the second stage.

The unmanned spacecraft will then use its own engines to continue on to the ISS, which also will be visible tonight for several minute just before 7pm as its orbit passes over the East Coast. Click here to find the station's position.

Burst of light: The rocket will appear in the sky as a bright orange star with a small V-shaped tail tracing a low arch from west to east

Burst of light: The rocket will appear in the sky as a bright orange star with a small V-shaped tail tracing a low arch from west to east

Antares will ditch its first stage once it has burnt all its fuel, just under 240 seconds after launch

Antares will ditch its first stage once it has burnt all its fuel, just under 240 seconds after launch

Two weeks after its prospective December 3 departure from the ISS, the Cygnus capsule will disintegrate in Earth's atmosphere 

Two weeks after its prospective December 3 departure from the ISS, the Cygnus capsule will disintegrate in Earth's atmosphere 

Cygnus will remain attached to the space station for about a month. Two weeks after its prospective December 3 departure from the ISS, the capsule will disintegrate in Earth's atmosphere.

Under a $1.9billion contract with NASA, Orbital Sciences will use Antares and Cygnus to deliver up to 44,000lbs of cargo to the ISS over eight missions, including the mission currently under way, through late 2016.


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Comment by Dave on February 18, 2016 at 8:59am
I've been snorkeling there and fed the stingrays. They have fine teeth like sandpaper, I don't see how it can cause injury.
Comment by Bombahdrop on November 11, 2014 at 5:43pm

Being inquisitive is why that s*** blew up . smh

Comment by Bombahdrop on November 11, 2014 at 5:42pm

if they cant fix whats wrong with earth and the people on it then why the hell do they feel the need to explore outside of the earths atmosphere where we don't belong otherwise we would be there instead of here. going up there is not only a waste of time and money but it also takes away from the time they should spend healing this planet were on the nations of people.

Comment by Big Woman on November 10, 2014 at 1:53pm
I am all for space exploration as we move forward. If they weren't any sense of adventure and natural inquivitness the human race would have ceased to exist long ago. Think about it none of the technology, advances in science etc. would exist if someone didn't dare to dream and do. Its okay to be scared though, trailblazing ain't for everybody!
Comment by mr1stroke on November 9, 2014 at 10:43am

well where are all the people who likes to fly, many paid up to 250k for a seat dont back down now, dont change your mind, keep it going, ill be down here waiting, ill make sure ill do a search for names and information on each person who is gone, to make sure if they have any family back on earth and also they situation, in case they dont come back i know what to plan, an easy letter can get you anything sometimes lol gotta love this life, wealthy idiots are my best friends

Comment by Bombahdrop on November 9, 2014 at 12:00am

It wasn't meant for them to go up there . They only going up their to manipulate s*** into disasters that's what I believe. they need to stop messing with mother nature.

Comment by mr1stroke on November 1, 2014 at 9:58am

let see people pays $250k for a seat just to risk their lives and they say im the crazy one, but guess what i tell you whats not crazy its when i stand on earth waving good bye to any one who is about to take that flight what ever happen up there dont expect me to share no tears, you made your choice, fair well

Comment by Dr. Phillip Valentine on November 1, 2014 at 8:30am

Family...: That thing was hit with a SCALAR WEAPON...!!!! 

Comment by evolution on October 31, 2014 at 12:10am

The father in “Independence Day” said it best; you don’t really think they actually pay $25,000 for a toilet bowl do you?

Comment by Steveon Williams on October 29, 2014 at 11:44pm

smh lol

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