"Today VSS Unity completed her first powered flight," Virgin Galactic said via Twitter. "Touch down. Congratulations Mark ‘Forger’ Stucky and Dave Mackay for a great milestone test flight."
Virgin Galactic explained that the two-member crew piloted the space plane in Thursday's test, firing its rocket engines after being carried aloft and turned loose by a mother aircraft.
Our spaceship VSS Unity flew beautifully this morning, going supersonic for the first time under rocket power. A good day & a big step forward for @virgingalactic and sister organisation @TheSpaceshipCo. Head to our website to read more https://t.co/kKxgEIx3ma pic.twitter.com/YaX2TMskoA— Virgin Galactic (@virgingalactic) April 5, 2018
Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson later tweeted that Unity reached Mach 1.6, more than one-and-a-half times the speed of sound before landing. The flight lasted slightly more than one hour after the mother plane, with Unity attached, took off from the Mojave Air and Space Port.
Virgin Galactic has announced plans build a fleet of similar planes and charge passengers $250,000 for sub-orbital flights into outer space.
An earlier version of the space plane named Enterprise suffered a fatal crash in October 2014, which was attributed to pilot error, according to published reports.