The flight, called Unity 25, took off at about 9:15 a.m. local time Thursday from New Mexico with two seasoned pilots and four passengers — all Virgin Galactic employees. The VSS Unity spacecraft detached from the carrier plane about an hour later and reached space before returning to Earth.
"Successful boost, WE HAVE REACHED SPACE!," the company said in a tweet. Virgin Galactic provided updates on social media of the mission, which the company did not live-stream.
There's a lot riding on the mission. Virgin Galactic had only been to space four times before Thursday, and has suffered technical issues during flights and a high-profile crash in 2014 that left one pilot dead. The company, which previously expected to start commercial service at the end of 2022, is also working to overcome doubts about its financial viability and is fending off a shareholder lawsuit.