by Harriet Alexander, The Telegraph, December 13, 2018
Virgin Galactic has successfully sent its test pilots into space, bringing Sir Richard Branson's dream of commercial space travel one tantalising step closer.
Taking off from the Mojave desert base shortly after 7am, the space craft flew to reach an eventual height of 271,000 feet.
Sir Richard wiped away tears as it was announced, and the crowd on the tarmac erupted in whoops and cheers.
The flight marks the first time that man has reached space from US soil since the end of Nasa's space shuttle programme, in 2011.
Watching the sunrise launch with his son Sam, Sir Richard could not hide his excitement.
"I know I'm not supposed to say this, but hopefully we're going to space!" he announced to the crowd of family and friends, assembled in the chilly morning.
The mothership, VMS Eve, sped down the runway with the space craft, VSS Unity, attached. It took off and climbed for around 45 minutes to 43,000 feet before VSS Unity was released.
The rocket motor was then ignited, with a 3G acceleration. In less than 10 seconds they reached the speed of sound. At Mach one, the speed of sound, the craft turned almost vertically up to jet into space.
On Thursday it hit its full duration burn of 60 seconds, more than the 50 seconds that had been expected.
VSS Unity then reached its apogee, of 271,000 feet.
The craft is now gliding back down to Earth, at the end of a flight which is expected to have taken a little over an hour.
Virgin Galactic has carried out nine glide test flights, and this is the fourth powered test flight.
No date has yet been given for the first of the 700 paying passengers to travel into space, but it is hoped to be next year.