Video: SpaceShipTwo rocket plane soars on supersonic test flight

Virgin Galactic’s commercial SpaceShipTwo rocket plane made its highest and fastest flight to date Thursday, moving the company’s space tourism ambitions closer to reality more than three years after a fatal accident suspended powered test flights.

This video shows the SpaceShipTwo vehicle, named VSS Unity, dropping from the belly of a carrier jet at 9:01 a.m. PDT (12:01 p.m. EDT; 1601 GMT) Thursday over the Mojave Desert in California. With two pilots at the controls, VSS Unity fired its hybrid rocket motor for 30 seconds, reaching an altitude of more than 84,000 feet and a top speed of Mach 1.87, nearly twice the speed of sound.

It was the first rocket-powered flight for VSS Unity, Virgin Galactic’s second SpaceShipTwo vehicle, after seven previous glide test flights. The VSS Unity returned to the Mojave Air and Space Port for a runway landing.

VSS Unity replaces VSS Enterprise, a rocket plane destroyed in an October 2014 crash that killed one pilot and injured another.

For details on Thursday’s test flight, read our full story.

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