MOJAVE, Calif. (CBS NEWS) — Virgin Galactic has conducted the first powered test flight of its new space tourism rocket.

Virgin Galactic tweeted that the spaceship named Unity was carried aloft by its mother ship and released over California’s Mojave Desert early Thursday.

The company said the spacecraft achieved supersonic speed before the pilots shut down the engine and glided it back to Mojave Air & Space Port.

This was Virgin Galactic’s first powered flight since the 2014 crash of its original spaceship that killed one of its two pilots.

Unity was previously flown on test flights in which it remained attached to the mother ship and others in which it was released to glide without lighting the rocket.

Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson tweeted that “Space feels tantalisingly close now.”

The company received a license to operate space tourism flights in August 2016.


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