• A family member has revealed that the pilot who was killed in Friday's Virgin spaceship tragedy is Michael Alsbury, a father of two with 15 years of flying experience
• His heartbroken widow Michelle Saling told MailOnline, 'I have lost the love of my life, I am living in hell right now'
• SpaceShipTwo had swapped a rubber-based rocket fuel for a higher-performing plastic blend for the first time during Friday's run
• Witnesses who rushed to falling debris reported seeing Alsbury strapped into his seat with body parts missing
• Virgin founder Richard Branson, who has sunk $500million into the space company, had previously said his company 'can't lose anybody' and be successful space flight operator
• Branson told the media on Saturday he had never before met Alsbury, although there is video of the two talking and celebrating one of the pilot's runs in April 2013
The pilot who died in a tragic accident aboard Virgin's SpaceShipTwo has been identified.
Michael Alsbury, a father of two and pilot with Scaled Composites, was killed on Friday when SpaceShipTwo exploded just minutes after it detached from its mother ship, WhiteKnightTwo.
• Kiwi space-lover still hopes to shoot for the stars
Michelle Saling, Alsbury's widow, told MailOnline, 'I have lost the love of my life. I am living in hell right now.'
The identity of the other pilot, who was critically injured when he ejected from the plane at 45,000 feet, is still unknown.
Alsbury, 39, had piloted SpaceShipTwo as recently as August 28.
Addressing the media at the crash site on Saturday morning, Virgin CEO Richard Branson said, 'This is a very tough time for all of us at Virgin Galactic, The Spaceship Company and Scaled Composites, and our thoughts remain with the families of the brave Scaled pilots, and all those affected by this tragedy.'
He added, 'In testing the boundaries of human capabilities and technologies, we are standing on the shoulders of giants. Yesterday, we fell short. We will now comprehensively assess the results of the crash and are determined to learn from this and move forward together as a company.'
Branson then closed out his statement by saying, 'I truly believe that humanity's greatest achievements come out of our greatest pain. This team is a group of the bravest, brightest, most determined and most resilient people I have ever had the privilege of knowing. We are determined to honour the bravery of the pilots and teams here by learning from this tragedy. Only then can we move forward, united behind a collective desire to push the boundaries of human endeavor.'
Branson also said he had never met Alsbury before, though photo and video evidence of the two celebrating a successful run in April 2013 seems to suggest otherwise.
The two are seen clearly talking and posing for photos in video released by Virgin Galactic, making the blunder that much more embarrassing for Branson and his team.
Branson flew to the site of the crash immediately after the tragedy occurred on Friday, and has been working closely with authorities to try and determine what went wrong during Friday's flight.
In a blog-post en route, Branson wrote: 'I am writing this as we refuel on one of the most difficult trips I have ever had to make. I will be in Mojave soon to join the Virgin Galactic and Scaled Composite teams involved in the SpaceShipTwo flight test program.
'Mojave is also where I want to be - with the dedicated and hard-working people who are now in shock at this devastating loss... We've always known that the road to space is extremely difficult - and that every new transportation system has to deal with bad days early in their history.'
He concluded: 'Space is hard - but worth it. We will persevere and move forward together.'
In a press conference Friday afternoon, George Whitesides, chief executive of Virgin Galactic, said; 'Our primary thoughts at the moment are with the crew and families and we are doing everything we can for them now.'
'Space is hard, and today was a tough day. The future rest on hard days like this.'
Stuart Witt, who is in charge of the Mojave Air and Space Port, where SpaceShipTwo was launched Friday, also remained optimistic about the future of space travel.
He said: 'Stay the course. This is not easy. If it was easy it would not be interesting to me and my colleagues standing next to me.'
'We are doing this for you and your generation. It is a cause far greater than any one of us singularly. I compare it to the Magellan expedition [the first circumnavigation of the Earth].'
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), has also launched an investigation into the crash.
In May, Virgin Galactic announced it was switching the fuel used in the vehicle's hybrid rocket motor, hydroxyl-terminated polybutadiene, a form of rubber, to a polyamide-based plastic.
During a media tour of Virgin Galactic's Mojave facilities on October 4 that marked the tenth anniversary of the final flight of SpaceShipOne, the suborbital vehicle that won the $10-million Ansari X Prize, company officials said they expected to resume powered test flights 'imminently' once qualification tests of the new motor were done.
At the International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight in Las Cruces, New Mexico, on October 15, Virgin Galactic chief executive George Whitesides said the company had completed those qualification tests.
'We expect to get back into powered test flight quite soon,' he said.
Branson's big project has also attracted a slew of big name passengers happy to pay for this once in a lifetime experience, including newlyweds Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie; Justin Bieber and his manager Scooter Braun; Lady Gaga, who plans to try and sing in space; former pop star Lance Bass, who has long been vocal about his desire to head to space; Ashton Kutcher, who was the 500th customer to purchase a ticket; Tom Hanks; Bryan Singer; and Princess Beatrice, who would be the first royal in space and who dates Dave Clark, an executive at Virgin Galactic.
Russell Brand also got a ticket for his birthday from ex-wife Katy Perry when the two were married. Perry bought a ticket as well so Brand would not have to go alone.
Stephen Hawking and Kate Winslet are also set to fly, but got their seats for free. Winslet because she is married to Branson's nephew, Ned RocknRoll, and Hawking because Branson wanted to offer the legendary astrophysicist a chance to go into space.
- Daily Mail