The Associated Press

California Man Identified as Deceased Pilot of Virgin Spaceship

The pilot killed during a test flight of Virgin Galactic's prototype space tourism rocket was identified Saturday by California authorities as 39-year-old Michael Tyner Alsbury of Tehachapi, California.

Alsbury was one of two pilots inside SpaceShipTwo, which crashed in the Mojave Desert Friday. He died at the scene of his injuries, according to Kern County Sheriff Danny Youngblood.

Next of kin was notified, according to Youngblood.

Alsbury worked for Scaled Composites, the company developing the spaceship for billionaire Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic space tourism company.

The pilot who survived Friday's crash was identified Saturday as Peter Siebold, 43. Youngblood said he was headed to surgery.

Branson spoke to news media Saturday morning, offering condolences for the pilot's family and vowing that the company would learn from the incident.

"The bravery of test pilots generally cannot be overstated. Nobody underestimates the risks involved in space travel," Branson said.

Alsbury was found dead in the area of what authorities described as a wide debris field.

Crews found three distinct fields of debris, indicating the test spaceship broke up in mid-air, according to Youngblood. A witness told The Associated Press they saw SpaceShipTwo explode over the desert after its rocket motor ignited.

The National Transit Safety Boa and the Federal Aviation Administration are continuing their investigation into the crash.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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