The spaceship and its carrier aircraft, WhiteKnightTwo, took off from the Mojave Air and Space Port at 7 a.m. PDT (10.00 a.m. EDT), heading to an altitude of about 46,000 feet, where SpaceShipTwo was released.
Two pilots then ignited the ship’s rocket engine and climbed another 10,000 feet, reaching Mach 1.2 in the process. Additional test flights are planned before the spaceship will fly even faster, eventually reaching altitudes that exceed 62 miles.
“Going from Mach 1 to Mach 4 is relatively easy, but obviously we’ve still got to do it. I think that the big, difficult milestones are all behind us,” Branson said.