Virgin Galactic will roll out a replacement SpaceShipTwo suborbital space plane on Friday and while it will look the same as the one that crashed in 2014 there are some important internal differences. According to the Verge, the company says the new vehicle has more automation and failsafe systems designed to prevent the kind of pilot error that led to the loss of the first one. The original craft disintegrated when the feathering mechanism used to slow reentry was manually deployed prematurely. Co-pilot Michael Alsbury was killed but pilot Peter Siebold was ejected from the crumbling aircraft and was able to deploy his parachute. He was seriously injured.
Alsbury pulled the handle but he shared blame with the company, who the NTSB said failed to ensure that such a mistake couldn’t happen. Shortly after the report was issued, Virgin Galactic chairman Sir Richard Branson said the technical fixes had already been designed. The new vehicle’s systems include those changes but The Verge says Virgin Galactic hasn’t detailed the fixes in advance of the rollout. The company intends to continue developing a space tourism business using similar vehicles and will resume testing with the replacement craft.