A Virgin Galactic spacecraft designed for commercial space travel has crashed on a test flight, killing one of the pilots and seriously injuring another.
SpaceShipTwo, intended for Sir Richard Branson's ambitious space tourism project, was carrying out a test flight over California's Mojave Desert when a "serious anomaly" occured, the company said.
According to widespread media reports, one pilot was found dead on the scene by rescuers while another, who is said to have ejected from the craft using his emergency parachute, was airlifted to hospital with serious injuries.
Virgin Group founder Sir Richard tweeted: "Thoughts with all @virgingalactic & Scaled [the pilots' company], thanks for all your messages of support." He added that he would be flying out to "be with the team".
At a news conference, Virgin Galactic CEO and president George Whitesides said: "Space is hard, and today was a tough day.
"We are going to be supporting the investigation as we figure out what happened today," he added.
Virgin Galactic handed over its website to a short statement saying it will work closely with the authorities to determine the cause of the tragedy. The company's media response is being handled by the PR giant Edelman.