Sir Richard Branson pushes more boundaries for commercial flights to space.

Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo went supersonic over the
Mojave desert during its first powered flight this morning, a major milestone for the company’s plans for commercial suborbital flights.

Sir Richard Branson’s spacecraft left the Mojave Air and Space Port in southern California on its first rocket powered flight not far from where the Bell X-1 piloted by the then Capt. Chuck Yeager first broke the sound barrier in 1947. Today’s flight is a big step forward for Virgin Galactic and paves the way for its first suborbital space flight test later this year. It’s been more than eight years since Virgin Galactic’s space tourism program began, and though progress has come slower than planned, Branson was nevertheless enthusiastic about the flight test.

“It marks the moment when we put together two key elements of our spaceflight system – the spacecraft and its rocket motor, which have both been tested extensively by themselves over several years,” Branson wrote on his blog after the flight. “And start the phase of testing that will demonstrate our vehicle’s ability to go to space (hopefully later this year).”

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