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Virgin Galactic backers back off after crash

At least 20 of the 700 people who bought a ticket to space aboard on of Virgin Galactic's future flights have asked for refunds.

By Gabrielle Levy
National Transportation Safety Board acting Chairman Christopher Hart (2nd-L) speaks with pilot Todd Ericson (3rd-L) and investigators at the crash site of the Virgin Galactic prototype space tourism rocket in Mojave, California on November 2, 2014. Hart said the investigation could take a year to complete. UPI/NTSB/#SpaceShipTwo
1 of 4 | National Transportation Safety Board acting Chairman Christopher Hart (2nd-L) speaks with pilot Todd Ericson (3rd-L) and investigators at the crash site of the Virgin Galactic prototype space tourism rocket in Mojave, California on November 2, 2014. Hart said the investigation could take a year to complete. UPI/NTSB/#SpaceShipTwo | License Photo

LAS CRUCES, N.M., Nov. 5 (UPI) -- Despite Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson's promise to correct the fatal flaw that caused the explosion of SpaceShipTwo last week, some of his wealthy backers are getting cold feet.

Some 700 people have paid $250,000 each to reserve a ticket on Virgin's first flights to the edge of outer space. But Tuesday, the commercial space tourism venture revealed 20 of those customers had asked for a refund.

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Virgin declined to say who had backed out, but a number of A-listers are known to be among the 700 ticket-holders, including physicist Stephen Hawking, pop stars Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga and actors Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.

Branson, meanwhile, has slammed "self-proclaimed experts" for postulating on the cause of the explosion, "a lot of whom know nothing about what they talk about."

Initial reports from the National Transportation Safety Board found the ship's air-braking "feathering" system activated too early, but said it was too early to assign a cause.

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Pilot Michael Tyner Alsbury, 39, was killed in the crash over California's Mojave Desert on Oct. 31. The other pilot, Peter Siebold, was injured.

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