Capt. Tom Ellison of Kern County Fire Department said that Spaceship Two had a malfunction shortly after it separated from White Knight Two, the rocket that gives Spaceship Two a lift up to 45,000 feet.
BREAKING: California Highway Patrol reports 1 fatality, 1 major injury after SpaceShipTwo accident.
One pilot died; the other ejected successfully and was airlifted to a hospital with "major injuries."
SpaceShip Two doesn't go all the way into orbit. But the goal is to fly into space for brief tourist trips. The trips will cost $250,000 apiece, and more than 700 people have already put down deposits.
Update at 5:20 p.m. ET. 'Space Is Hard':
During a press conference, Mojave Air & Space Port CEO Stuart Witt said he never saw anything go wrong with the spaceship.
He said that the vehicles launched at 9:20 a.m. PT and Spaceship Two separated from White Knight Two at 10:10 a.m. PT. At 10:12 a.m. PT, they detected an "inflight anomaly." Witt said he didn't hear or see an explosion, but the spaceship ended up in pieces across the Mojave Desert.
George T. Whitesides, the CEO of Virgin Galactic, said "space is hard."
He continued: "Today was a tough day. We are going to be supporting the investigation as we figure out what happened today and we're going to get through it. The future rests in many ways on hard days like these, but we believe we owe it to the folks who are flying these vehicles, as well as those who worked so hard on them, to understand this and to move forward, which is what we'll do."