Virgin Galactic completes second test flight of its tourist spaceplane

The VSS Unity reached an altitude of 114,500 before gliding home to land

Virgin Galactic completes second test flight of its tourist spaceplane

The VSS Unity in flight. Image: Virgin Galactic / Twitter

Virgin Galactic has completed the second test flight of the aircraft it hopes will one day take paying customers to the edge of space.

The company's founder Richard Branson was on hand at the Mojave Air and Space Port flight line to witness the second "successful, supersonic, rocket powered" test flight of the VSS Unity.

The test flight saw Unity's rocket motor burning for 31 seconds as planned, propelling the aircraft to an altitude of 114,500 ft.

The aircraft hit a top speed of Mach 1.9 - Mach represents the speed of sound.

“It was great to see our beautiful spaceship back in the air and to share the moment with the talented team who are taking us, step by step, to space” said Mr Branson.

“Seeing Unity soar upwards at supersonic speeds is inspiring and absolutely breathtaking.

The flight tested the aircrafts supersonic handling characteristics and the performance of its control system.

Following a flight path similar to that the company plans to use for its first commercial space flights, it deployed it "re-entry feathering system" for its initial descent before gliding home to a smooth runway landing.

Virgin Galactic's vision for commercial spaceflight will allow customers to experience weightlessness and look down on the planet from a height that few have ever experienced.

Seats are on sale for $250,000 (€214,500)  - with around 650 purchased already.

It remains unclear when the first non-test flight will launch - however the company is hopeful the first passengers could be heading for the edge of space within two years.