The National Transportation Safety Board, or NTSB, said in a media briefing Monday night that the available information from the crash of Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo does not suggest that the feathering system was deployed from the cockpit. On Sunday, investigators had made a discovery that the craft broke apart in mid-air after its tail, which is used to slow its descent, lifted prematurely.
In the fourth and final media briefing on Monday, Christopher Hart, chairman of NTSB, said that the pilot in the right seat of SpaceShipTwo transitioned the feathering system from locked to unlocked early before the fatal crash. Hart had explained on Sunday that the “feathering” system requires a two-step process to deploy, adding that while the co-pilot unlocked the system, the second step to complete the process occurred “without being commanded.”
While investigators are yet to interview Peter Siebold, the co-pilot who survived the crash on Friday, Hart said that NTSB has formed a new group of investigators to better examine how the pilots interacted with the craft because the command that unlocked the feathering system did not originate from the cockpit.
According to Hart, some parts of the spacecraft have been found as far as 35 miles northeast of the crash site.