One pilot has died and another is seriously injured after a rocket belonging to billionaire Sir Richard Branson's space tourism venture crashed during a test flight, US authorities said.
The investigation into the cause of Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo crash is expected to begin tomorrow morning and last for several days.
The president of Virgin Galactic's partner Scaled Composites, which conducted the doomed test flight of SpaceShipTwo, confirmed aviation investigators will arrive at the crash site early Saturday.
Kevin Mickey said steps to secure the crash site were taken as soon as the wreckage of the craft was located in the Mojave desert and would continue overnight in preparation for the arrival of the team from the National Transportation Safety Board.
The chief executive of Virgin Galactic has said "space is hard and today was a tough day" after the company's SpaceShipTwo crashed in the Mojave desert during a test flight, killing one of the two pilots on board.
"We are going to be supporting the investigation as we figure out what happened today and we're going to get through it," George Whiteside said at a news conference at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California.
Mr Whiteside confirmed Virgin chief Sir Richard Branson would be arriving to join the team on Saturday morning local time.
"The future rests in many ways on hard days like this," he added. "But we believe we owe it to the folks who are flying these vehicles and the folks who have been working so hard on them to understand this and move forward, which is what we'll do."
Craig Burkinshaw spent $400,000 on a pair of tickets for Virgin Galactic.
Speaking to ITV News following the Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo crash, Mr Burkinshaw said his first thoughts were with the family of the crew but said the incident would not deter him from future flights.
The chief executive of Mojave Air and Space Port said officials "can't speculate" on the cause of Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo crash.
Stewart Witt confirmed one pilot died at the scene and another was treated at the scene before being taken to hospital.
Mr Witt said the death of the unnamed pilot "hurts" and said the thoughts and prayers of his team were "absolutely" with the families of the victims.
Police have launched a murder inquiry after a man died of gunshot wounds in Manchester.
Officers were called to reports of a man with a gun at Manchester Food Traders on Wood Street in Openshaw at around 6.20pm.
Armed officers were scrambled to the scene and found a man with two gunshot wounds to his abdomen and chest.
The man, believed to be 35, was taken to hospital but died as a result of his injuries, Greater Manchester Police said.
A murder investigation has been launched and detectives are appealing to anyone who has information to come forward.
Sir Richard Branson revealed in March that his dream to turn commercial space travel into a reality began 26 years ago with a phone-in on a children's TV show.
The billionaire entrepreneur said he registered the name Virgin Galactic Airways after a viewer asked if he would like to go into space during BBC Saturday morning show Going Live in 1988.
Speaking on ITV's The Jonathan Ross Show, he said:
Further footage shows close ups of the mangled wreckage of the Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo.
The space craft exploded over California's Mojave Desert, killing the pilot and leaving another suffering a "major injury", according to an official from the California Highway Patrol.
Sir Richard Branson has tweeted that he is flying out to Mojave Air and Spaceport in California after Virgin Galactic's rocket plane SpaceShipTwo crashed during a test flight, killing one of the two pilots on board.
SpaceShipTwo (SS2) is a rocket plane belonging to Sir Richard Branson's space tourism venture Virgin Galactic that aims to fly six passengers and two pilots to space and back.
The 60ft-long craft has been under development at Mojave Air and Spaceport in California after its initial presentation in 2009 as the company attempts to turn the dream of commercial space travel into a reality.
SS2 allows its passengers to float in zero gravity in a 90" diameter cabin or remain seated with window views out of the craft at their side and above their heads.
It was designed to be carried 15km into the air by the WhiteKnightTwo jet and then released by the mothership, whereupon a rocket motor ignites to fire the craft to an altitude of 110km, before it returns to Earth as a glider.
Virgin Galactic posted footage of the SS2 going supersonic for the first time on its YouTube account in April 2013:
Authorities have confirmed the co-pilot of Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo died in the test flight crash over the Mojave Desert.
The pilot was ejected from the craft and was found injured at the crash scene. He has been taken to a local hospital, Kern County Sheriff's spokesman Ray Pruitt said.