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Spaceship Builder to Appeal Calif. Fines

Blast Investigation Delays Rocket Engine Work for SpaceShipTwo
Aerospace pioneer Burt Rutan discusses the design for SpaceShipTwo, a suborbital piloted spacecraft under construction by his firm Scaled Composites on Jan. 23, 2007. The craft will serve as the workhorse for Virgin Galactic's space tourism flights. (Image credit: Michael Soluri.)

WASHINGTON —Scaled Composites LLC is appealing $28,870 in fines the California Departmentof Industrial Relations imposed on the Mojave, Calif.-based spaceship builderin connection with a July test-stand explosion that killed three workers.

SeventeenScaled Composite employees and contractors were present when the explosionoccurred three seconds into a cold-flow test of a hybrid rocket motor thecompany is developing for VirginGalactic?s SpaceShipTwo suborbital passenger craft.

A reportreleased Thursday by California workplace safety officials said all seven ofthe Scaled Composites employees injured or killed in the July 26 incidentwere viewing the day?s nitrous oxide cold-flow test from behind a chain-linkfence. Two were killed instantly by the blast. One died on his way to thehospital.

The sixworkers who were running the test were not injured in the blast. They weresheltered in a mobile command center protected by an earthen berm.

California safety officials faulted Scaled forfailingto adequately train workers about the potential hazards of nitrous oxide.

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