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Space tourist launch plane damaged

disclaimer: image is for illustration purposes only
by Staff Writers
Mojave, Calif. (UPI) Aug 20, 2010
The mother ship jet designed to launch suborbital space tourist flights was damaged upon landing in California when a landing gear collapsed, officials said.

Officials with Scaled Composites, the Mojave, Calif., company that built the twin-fuselage carrier plane, said a mechanical problem with the left main landing gear on the Virgin Galactic WhiteKnightTwo jet caused the "minor incident," reported Friday.

Inspectors from the Federal Aviation Administration examined the plane after the Thursday landing in which no injuries were reported.

"Two FAA inspectors were on scene to examine the aircraft," Ian Gregor, a spokesman for the FAA, said. "The left main landing gear was damaged. This appears at this time to be an incident and not an accident."

The runway incident did not involve Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo, the suborbital passenger-carrying spacecraft that will be carried into launch position at about 50,000 feet by WhiteKnightTwo.

The landing came at the end of the plane's 37th test flight.

WhiteKnightTwo has been flying since December 2008.

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