Today's milestone flight was notable for a number of reasons, including that it was the first crewed spaceflight to take place from American soil since 2011.
The Virgin Galactic Spaceship Two rocket, which was carried up to a height of above 12,000 metres by a specially-designed plane before igniting its motors, reached 82.7km above the ground which is above the altitude at which space begins according to Nasa. There, it's released before igniting its rocket engine and climbing. This is not necessary for the VSS Unity though, since its velocity zeros out just past the edge of the Karman Line.
Branson's space venture suffered a major setback in 2014 when its first space plane, VSS Enterprise, broke apart during a test flight, killing co-pilot Michael Alsbury and injuring pilot Peter Siebold.
New versions of SpaceShipTwo are built by a Virgin Galactic sister company and flight testing is now in-house. It returned to Earth minutes later.
The US space agency paid Virgin Galactic to fly four space science and technology experiments on the VSS Unity, "making this Virgin Galactic's first revenue generating flight", the company added. The achievement has been recognized by the FAA, which plans to award the flight's pilots in a ceremony next year.
Reaching the threshold of space would demonstrate significant progress toward the start of commercial flights that were promised more than a decade ago. The crash led to major delays in the company's progress in taking tourists to space. But that may soon change. This push helped the vehicle to reach a "space altitude" of 50 miles (about 80 km).
Commercial airplanes typically fly at an altitude of about six miles, while the orbiting International Space Station is some 250 miles high.More news: Rajapaksa: Sri Lanka's disputed PM resigns amid crisis
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It has taken Virgin Galactic a while to get this point.
The thin air in this region of the atmosphere allowed the spacecraft to accumulate altitude and airspeed very rapidly, thus allowing VSS Unity to achieve spaceflight (and ultimately zero gravity for a brief period of time).
Branson said he has invested almost $1 billion of his own money into the venture.
Mr Whitesides said a review of the flight's data would last into the new year, and there would be more test flights. A special "feather" system is then used for reentry, wherein the craft folds its wings and behaves like a traditional space capsule until the air thickens again, at which time the wings unfold again and behave like a space plane, gliding back to Earth and landing on a landing strip.
"We made it to space", Enrico Palermo, president of The Spaceship Company, Virgin Galactic's manufacturing partner, told a crowd of cheering spectators gathered at the Mojave Air & Space Port in Mojave, California.
Eventually, the company would like to turn those spaceports into "future hubs for a network of intercontinental transportation nodes" where the spaceships can transport people across the globe in a matter of hours. "Ideally, we want to do three more flights before we go to New Mexico".