Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic has rocketed to the edge of space in its first flight in two years.
The company’s VSS Unity craft reached an altitude of 89.2km (55.45 miles) above the Earth’s surface after being launched from a space plane above New Mexico on Saturday.
It was Virgin Galactic’s third overall successful spaceflight, and first since early 2019.
The company was forced to abort an attempt last December because of technical issues, and a February test flight was pushed back to May to ensure all onboard issues were dealt with.
“VSS Unity achieved a speed of Mach 3 after being released from the mothership, VMS Eve, and reached space, at an altitude of 55.45 miles before gliding smoothly to a runway landing at Spaceport America,” Virgin Galactic said in a statement.
The flight, which was crewed by two pilots, also carried science and research payloads for Nasa, after take off from Spaceport America in New Mexico.
The crew also evaluated the passenger cabin and carried out tests on live video streams from the craft back to the ground.
“It was flawless,” Virgin Galactic CEO Michael Colglazier told CNBC.
Virgin Galactic has taken deposits worth $80m (£56.5m) from 600 prospective tourists that it will launch to the edge of space in its future commercial flights.
Mr Branson posted a video of himself celebrating the launch to his Twitter account.
The company has not yet announced when the $200,000-a-seat (£141,000) flights will commence.
But it said that the latest flight gave future ticket holders a glimpse of what their money has bought.
“The crew experienced extraordinary views of the bright, blue-rimmed curvature of the earth against the blackness of space,” the company added.
“New Mexico’s White Sands National Park sparkled brilliantly below. Their experience today gives Virgin Galactic’s Future Astronaut customers a glimpse of what lies ahead.”
The company still has to carry out a test flight with four passengers inside the spacecraft’s cabin, and a final test flight on which Mr Branson has said he will be on.
Virgin Galactic was founded by Mr Branson in 2004 as a space tourism company and in 2014 endured a crash that killed a test pilot in California’s Mojave Desert.