Speed Reads

Space Race

Virgin Galactic hopes to have second rocket plane finished by the end of 2014

Virgin Galactic is still moving forward on finishing a second rocket plane by the end of the year, despite the Friday morning crash of SpaceShipTwo in the Mojave Desert, which killed one pilot and seriously injured the other.

"The second spaceship is very advanced in its construction," Virgin Galactic chief executive George Whitesides told the Los Angeles Times on Sunday. "We need to work closely with the NTSB [National Transportation Safety Board]...to work out as rapidly as we can what happened, and then to move forward. We're hopeful we can make rapid progress."

Whitesides said that Virgin Galactic has spent $500 million to test the rocket planes, which will send tourists into space. The test flight on Friday was the first to use a motor that runs on a plastic-based fuel, leading some to speculate that the engine could have been a factor in the crash. Whitesides said he could not comment on the accident due to the investigation.

The crash killed 39-year-old Michael Alsbury. The pilot who survived, Peter Siebold, 43, has a shoulder injury but is alert and communicating with his family and doctors.