Richard Branson was present for the VSS Enterprise's maiden flight, which took place yesterday in the Mojave Desert. The six-seater spacecraft was manned by two pilots and came off without a hitch.
The mothership climbed to an altitude of 45,000 feet before SpaceShipTwo successfully detached from the larger craft and flew for 11 minutes. The perfect take-off and textbook landing of the spacecraft is a huge step forward for Virgin Galactic.
Branson said of the flight: "It flew like a bird. We now know that the spaceship glides. We know it can be dropped safely from the mothership and we know it can land safely. That's three big ticks."
Virgin Galactic hopes to offer sub-orbital space travel to customers by 2011. Tickets aboard SpaceShipTwo cost $200,000 (£125,000). It is estimated that 370 customers have already paid deposits totalling $50million (£31.3million) to secure their seats on the first flights out of Virgin Galactic's New Mexico spaceport.
Construction on the spaceport is due to complete at the end of this month.