Virgin Galactic is “back on track” after completing its first rocket-powered test flight since a fatal crash in late 2014.
The spaceflight company’s VSS Unity vehicle on Thursday successfully completed its first powered test flight, Virgin Galactic tweeted. During the mission, pilots David Mackay and Mark Stucky brought the ship to its top speed and altitude before guiding it back to the company’s California spaceport, Space.com reports.
After the voyage, Virgin Group founder Richard Branson tweeted that “space feels tantalisingly close now.”
VSS Unity has completed a series of unpowered test flights over the past year, according to Space.com, but Thursday’s mission marks Virgin Galactic’s first return to powered flight since the VSS Enterprise crashed in 2014, killing one of its pilots. The company will continue to run progressively longer test trips throughout 2018, Space.com reports, with the goal of launching commercial service by the end of the year.
Virgin Galactic aspires to “open space for everyone” and use “space for good while delivering an unparalleled customer experience,” according to its website. The VSS Unity and its sister spaceships will eventually “offer everyone the opportunity to become private astronauts and experience the wonder of space for themselves,” the company says.