NTSB Releases New Clues in SpaceShipTwo Accident Investigation

©NTSB

Chairman Christopher Hart, the National Transportation Safety Board.

Acting Chairman Christopher Hart's of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released new clues at the third media briefing Sunday evening.

1) The vehicle had a nominal release followed by a nominal Ignition.

2) Approximately 9 seconds after ignition, the "feather" parameters changed from lock to unlock.

According to Hart the "normal procedures are to command the feathers to unlock after Mach 1.4 so aerodynamic forces do not extend feathers prematurely."

The co-pilot manually moved the feather lock switch to the unlock position when the spacecraft was at Mach 1.0. Two seconds later the spacecraft began to feather even though neither the co-pilot or pilot had activated the feather command switch. Hart said that this is a statement of fact and not a statement of cause. There are still many months of data to sift through and onsite interviews with people involved in the test flight are ongoing.

The investigators "found the fuel tank, the oxidizer tank and the engine and all were intact, showed no sign of burn through, no sign of being being breached." These have been moved to a hangar and will be investigated further.

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