Once at the launch altitude, Virgin Galactic explains that the carrier aircraft VMS Eve released Unity. Burning a mixture of rubber-based solid fuel - called HTPB - and nitrous oxide, the rear-mounted rocket engine propelled SpaceShipTwo to almost twice the speed of sound as the pilots maneuvered the craft on an 80-degree climb.
With the engine shut down, Unity coasted upward to an apogee of 84,271 feet (25,686 meters).
SpaceShipTwo is based on famed aerospace designer Burt Rutan's smaller single-seat SpaceShipOne, which became the first privately funded spacecraft to fly above 100 kilometers, the accepted definition of where "space" begins, in 2004.
Virgin Galactic has sold more than 600 tickets for future suborbital trips to the edge of space.
Screen captures of the Virgin Galactic flight video of SpaceShipTwo VSS Unity's successful supersonic, rocket-powered flight. Unity also broke the sound barrier for the first time in today's test flight, reaching a speed of Mach 1.87, or about 1,434 miles per hour.
The firm praised pilots Mike Masucci and Nicola Pecile for the "great milestone test flight".
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At around 50,000 feet, the pilots lowered the tail booms back into position.
The company accident occurred as soon as the co pilot prematurely un-locked the "feathers" and also the ship broke apart.
The craft christened VSS Unity has taken flight a dozen times since its debut in February 2016, but the previous 11 tests didn't involve lighting up the plane's hybrid rocket motor.
In so doing they rode Unity through the transonic range and into supersonic flight - for the first time.
Unlike other commercial spaceflight companies, such as Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic initiates its flights without using a traditional rocket launch.
"The flight has generated valuable data on flight, motor and vehicle performance which our engineers will be reviewing", Virgin said in a statement on the company's web page. The test flight in Nevada brings us one step closer to commercial space tourism. The company can now proceed with new phases, including full-duration rocket burns and powered flight. While the company celebrates that achievement, the team remains focused on the challenging tasks which still lie ahead.