Charles May was the consummate rocketeer, as a child, he would build model rockets in his spare time.
When he got older, he would rig them on bicycles and canoes to make them zip.
"He was outgoing. I wouldn't call him a geek type of person," recalled older brother Gary May.
The younger May, 45, was killed Thursday during a routine test of a propellent flow system for a new space tourism vehicle at a Mojave Desert airport site used by Scaled Composites LLC.
Also killed were Eric Blackwell, 38, and Todd Ivens, 33.
Like most Scaled employees, the trio were lured by the promises of working in cutting-edge rocketry. May was part of Scaled's history-making SpaceShipOne team, which launched the first private manned rocket into space.
He left after SpaceShipOne won the X Prize to work at another space-related company and had just returned to Scaled on Monday, his family said.
"He always felt like he was part of history" because of SpaceShipOne, his brother said.
Rocketry was in May's blood. His parents gave him the middle name Glen after the NASA astronaut John Glenn.
Born in Tennessee, he would often go to Huntsville, Ala., to watch rocket firings, his brother said.
Gary May said his brother was full of life and liked camping and motorcycling. He was single and had no children.
He served as a paratrooper for two years and enjoyed working at Scaled because of its family environment.
Scaled founder Burt Rutan said the accident happened as workers
were testing the flow of nitrous oxide through an opening.
The test was considered routine and did not involve a rocket firing.
The cause of the blast is under investigation.
May's father, Roy, said his son never talked about the dangers of his job.
"If there were danger, he didn't talk to me about it," he said.
Rutan declined to talk about his employees.
Blackwell's parents, Dean and Pam, would not comment when contacted by The Associated Press and referred questions to Scaled.
Family contacts were not immediately located for Ivens.