Virgin Galactic Lands First Rocket-Powered Test Flight After 2014 Fatal Accident

Space tourism company Virgin Galactic launched its first rocket-powered flight test since an accident in 2014 left one person dead. The flight successfully broke the sound barrier but did not travel far enough to hit space, Quartz reported.

Early Thursday morning, the company's SpaceShipTwo VSS Unity suborbital vehicle was launched mid-flight by White Knight Two, a larger plane. Although the VSS Unity has previously done many glide tests, this was the first time its rocket motor was turned on.

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The spacecraft, whose engine burned for 30 seconds total, took off from California's Mojave Air and Space Port, according to a tweet from Richard Branson's company.

"#WhiteKnightTwo pilots, Mike "Sooch" Masucci and Nicola Pecile have landed VMS Eve safely, completely today's important test flight @MojaveAirport," the tweet said.

VSS Unity completed her first supersonic, rocket-powered flight this morning in Mojave, California. Another great test flight, another step closer to being #NMReady

— Virgin Galactic (@virgingalactic) April 5, 2018

Unity's successful trip brings Virgin Galactic one step closer to their ultimate goal: to get people on commercial flights to space.

"We are now just months away from Virgin Galactic sending people into space and Virgin Orbit placing satellites around the Earth," Virgin Group Founder Branson said in October 2017, according to CNBC.

His hopeful message followed the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia's announcement to invest $1 billion in Virgin Galactic.

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If you're looking to get on one of those flights in the near future, don't get your hopes up just yet. The flights come with a hefty starting price tag of $250,000, spokeswoman Christine Choi told Albuquerque Business First in late 2017.

The last time Virgin Galactic turned on a spacecraft's motors during flight, it ended in a tragic crash. Not only was the plane destroyed, but pilot Michael Alsbury's life was cut short.