Michael Soluri
Aerospace pioneer Burt Rutan discusses the design for SpaceShipTwo, a suborbital piloted spacecraft under construction by his firm Scaled Composites. The company says it will appeal fines levied by California officials following a fatal blast at its site in July.
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updated 2/8/2008 1:56:02 PM ET 2008-02-08T18:56:02

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

Seventeen Scaled Composite employees and contractors were present when the explosion occurred three seconds into a cold-flow test of a hybrid rocket motor the company is developing for Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo suborbital passenger craft.

A report released Thursday by California workplace safety officials said all seven of the Scaled Composites employees injured or killed in the July 26 incident were viewing the day's nitrous oxide cold-flow test from behind a chain-link fence. Two were killed instantly by the blast. One died on his way to the hospital.

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

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

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