MOJAVE, CA: Edelman is assisting Virgin Galactic with communications after the crash of space tourism rocket SpaceShipTwo, which left one pilot dead and another injured.
For the first time in more than nine months, SpaceShipTwo was testing its rocket engine on Friday. The plane, which originated from the Mojave Air and Space Port, touched down in the desert outside Mojave, California. There were only two passengers onboard.
"During the test, the vehicle suffered a serious anomaly resulting in the loss of the vehicle," Virgin wrote in a statement, which it posted on its website and social media pages. The company also noted that its first cause of concern is the status of the pilots.
Edelman has been working with Virgin since April, when it was chosen to handle its six-figure global PR account in the build-up to its first commercial flight into space. The agency has been sending Virgin Galactic’s statement to media via email.
A representative from the firm was not immediately available to comment further on the comms strategy in response to this situation.
Our first concern is the status of the pilots, which is unknown at this time. (3 of 4)— Virgin Galactic (@virgingalactic) October 31, 2014
Virgin Galactic’s founder Richard Branson tweeted shortly after the incident that he was headed to the crash site to "be with the team."
Thoughts with all @virgingalactic & Scaled, thanks for all your messages of support. I'm flying to Mojave immediately to be with the team.— Richard Branson (@richardbranson) October 31, 2014
During a press conference on Friday afternoon, Stuart Witt, CEO of Mojave Air and Space Port, said, "From my eyes and my ears, I detected nothing that appeared abnormal."
He added, "If there was a huge explosion that occurred, I didn’t see it."
The first commercial flight on the rocket plane was set to launch next year and more than 700 customers have paid as much as $250,000 for a ride.
Social media users criticized Virgin for using the word "anomaly" in its comms response:
"Serious Anomaly" and "Lost" Virgin PR for "Engine Failure" and "Crash" #SpaceShipTwo RIP pilot. Get well soon pilot.— Karl Carpenter (@KarlCarpo) October 31, 2014
#SpaceShipTwo The thing crashed, F this bs PR spin, "Anomaly".— C-Spun (@aBlooter) October 31, 2014
In-flight anomaly is engineer speak for "shit went boom". Hopeful #SpaceShipTwo is okay— Eric (@killian_13) October 31, 2014