Destructive Windstorm Rips Through SpaceShipTwo Rollout Event
Guests safely evacuated before tent blown away
The morning after – the main tent lies in ruins after being destroyed by a severe windstorm that swept through Mojave December 7.
December 11, 2009 —“We were fully expecting to be blown away by our beautiful new spaceship but got a little more than we bargained for!” Those are the words from Virgin Galactic’s Sir Richard Branson in the aftermath of hurricane force winds that destroyed the specially created venue for the rollout of SpaceShipTwo VSS Enterprise on Monday night, December 7 at the Mojave Air and Spaceport in California. The specially erected tents were used throughout the day to house more than 800 guests attending the unveiling.
According to Virgin Galactic, an evacuation was called by local officials during the post-unveiling celebration after becoming aware of the approaching storm. Sir Richard described the scene: “It was absolutely incredible, the roll out of the spaceship had been fantastic and everybody was filled with terrific energy. We were all in the tents when the evacuation was called. 20 minutes after the last of the 800 guests had been coached away, the main 200ft tent literally took off.”
Gusts were reported of up to 116 mph, and local residents commented that the Mojave area had not experienced such a combination of high winds, rain and freezing temperatures for over two decades. Both the spaceship and WhiteKnightTwo escaped damage thanks to the rapid action of the crew, as were all guests thanks to an efficient evacuation to waiting buses.