MOJAVE, Calif. — The left main landing gear on Virgin Galactic's space tourism jet collapsed as it landed after a test flight in the Mojave Desert Thursday, federal aviation authorities said. No injuries were reported.Two Federal Aviation Administration inspectors were on the scene to examine WhiteKnightTwo, a four-engine jet that will serve as the mothership for Virgin's passenger-carrying spaceship.
"The left main landing gear is damaged, but we don't yet know if that's the extent of the damage," FAA spokesman Ian Gregor said.
The problem occurred around 11:15 a.m. PT at the Mojave Air and Space Port.
In a statement, aircraft builder Scaled Composites described the event as a "minor incident." The company said there was a mechanical problem with the left landing gear.
Scaled did not describe the problem in any detail, but said there were no injuries. The rocket-powered spaceship, known as SpaceShipTwo, was not attached to the jet at the time.
WhiteKnightTwo is designed to carry Virgin's spaceship to high altitude and then release the rocket, which will then fire its engine for a brief dash into space.
Virgin has said the test program is expected to run through next year before commercial operations begin. About 300 clients have paid for a $200,000 ticket or placed a deposit.
Seven years ago, SpaceShipOne — the predecessor of the rocket plane currently being developed — suffered a partial landing gear collapse and ran off the runway at Mojave at the end of its first powered test flight . The plane went on to make three successful spaceflights in 2004, winning the $10 million Ansari X Prize in the process.
This report includes information from The Associated Press and msnbc.com.
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