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During the spaceship's flight, it reached supersonic speeds of about Mach 1.6, according to a tweet from Virgin Galactic's founder, British billionaire Richard Branson.

Attached to Virgin Galactic's WhiteKnight Two carrier aircraft, VMS Eve, VSS Unity took off from a Mojave launch strip the morning of April 5, piloted by Mark "Forger" Stucky and Dave Mackay.

VSS Unity fired its rocket engine for 30 seconds yesterday, reaching a maximum altitude of 84,271 feet (25,686 meters) - that's almost 16 miles (25 kilometers) - and a top speed of Mach 1.87, Virgin Galactic representatives said.

The company has not yet announced a date for the start of passenger flights but is selling tickets for a ride aboard SpaceShipTwo at $250,000 United States a seat.

The Spaceship corporation, which works in Mojave and is a unit of Virgin Galactic builds the spaceships.

The flight of VSS Unity was a major step forward, said the company, which plans to carry tourists on suborbital hops into the lower reaches of space where they can see the Earth far below and the stars beyond.

Virgin Galactic has released the first images of the test flight, which are undeniably mind-blowing.


At around 50,000 ft., the tail-booms were lowered again and, while jettisoning the remaining oxidizer, Unity turned toward Mojave for the glide home and a smooth runway landing.

The company accident occurred as soon as the co pilot prematurely un-locked the "feathers" and also the ship broke apart.

The flight generated "valuable data on flight, motor and vehicle performance", which Virgin Galactic's engineers are now studying.

The Spaceship Company, a Virgin Galactic sister firm also owned by Branson's London-based Virgin Group, built the new SpaceShipTwo VSS Unity, the second in a planned fleet of five, and took over the test-flight programme from Scaled.

Unity has previously flown on test flights in which it glided without lighting the rocket. Images are courtesy of Virgin Galactic. "While we celebrate that achievement, the team remains focused on the challenging tasks which still lie ahead", the company stated in a release issued after the flight. Virgin Galactic calls this a new milestone for the company, explaining that two years of "extensive ground and atmospheric testing" went into making this possible.

Officials did not say Thursday when SpaceShipTwo will make a full-duration test flight, or when commercial passengers could begin flying with Virgin Galactic.


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