UPHAM, N.M. — A rocket that was the first launched from a commercial spaceport in New Mexico — and the first to crash — has been found in the desert, company officials said Saturday.
The 20-foot (6-meter) SpaceLoft XL rocket was found nearly a week after it wobbled and went off course seconds after takeoff from Spaceport America in Upham on Monday afternoon.
The unmanned rocket crashed Monday in the rugged southern New Mexico desert after reaching about 40,000 feet (12,000 meter), well short of UP Aerospace's goal of sending the rocket into suborbital space, about 70 miles (113 kilometers) above Earth.
The company has not disclosed the exact site of the crash.
Eric Knight, the company's chief executive officer, said radar data from the nearby White Sands Missile Range, the intended landing site, helped searchers find what was left of the rocket.
The cause of the crash remained a mystery, Knight said. "Now that we have the rocket we can start doing our anomaly investigation," he said.
During a Friday news briefing, UP Aerospace President Jerry Larson said he expected any problems to be corrected quickly. "Until all facts are assembled, all possibilities remain on the table. However, from what we've seen so far, and how well the vehicle was performing until the anomaly, we would be extremely surprised if we discover a major issue," Larson said.
Slideshow: Month in space: Future frontiers A crew from the Connecticut-based company had searched the desert by air and on foot for several days.
Knight said it was unclear Saturday how the rocket, whose condition he did not describe, would be removed from the desert. Recovery will take a few days, he said.
Plans for a second launch Oct. 21 are still on, Knight said. Cremated remains from dozens of dearly departed, including "Star Trek" actor James (Scottie) Doohan and Mercury astronaut Gordon Cooper, are to be sent into the sky during that mission.
Monday's launch was the first at the state-funded Spaceport America, about 95 miles (150 kilometers) north of El Paso, Texas. The site is also the proposed home of a $225 million spaceport where Richard Branson, the British billionaire founder of the Virgin Group, has announced plans to base a space tourism company.
This report was supplemented by information from MSNBC.com.
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