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Landing gear problem with space jet

Virgin Galactic's space tourism jet has suffered a landing gear problem during a test flight in the Mojave Desert.

The incident described as minor occurred on Thursday at a runway at the Mojave Air and Space Port.

Two Federal Aviation Administration inspectors were on the scene to examine WhiteKnightTwo, a four-engine jet that will serve as the mothership to Virgin's passenger-carrying spaceship.

"The left main landing gear is damaged, but we don't yet know if that's the extent of the damage," FAA spokesman Ian Gregor said.

Aircraft builder Scaled Composites said in a statement that there was a mechanical problem with the left landing gear of the WhiteKnightTwo aircraft.

The company did not describe the problem in any detail but says there were no injuries and its spaceship was not attached to the jet at the time.

WhiteKnightTwo is designed to carry Virgin's spaceship to high altitude and then release the rocket, which will then fire its engine for a brief dash into space.

Virgin said the test programme is expected to run through to next year before commercial operations begin.

Some 300 clients have paid for a $200,000 ticket or have placed a deposit.

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