Virgin Galactic's spaceship lands safely after test flight

Virgin Galactic's mothership WhiteKnightTwo

Sir Richard Branson watched on as Virgin Galactic's second SpaceShipTwo successfully glided through its first free-flying test, more than two years after a man was killed when the first aircraft crashed.

The SpaceShipTwo, dubbed VSS Unity, landed in Mojave, California, about 10 minutes after it cleanly detached from its carrier aircraft WhiteKnightTwo, which also returned to the ground safely.

See also: Lady Gaga to sell her spare seat on Virgin Galactic flight

See also: Virgin Galactic passengers ask for refund after crash

Virgin Group founder Sir Richard joined Virgin Galactic chief executive George Whitesides and other onlookers to witness the test flight, smiling and clapping as VSS Unity's two pilots manned the vehicle back on to the runway.

After further glide flights, the next step in the group's ongoing mission to make space tourism a reality will be to conduct rocket-powered flights to test the Unity's hybrid motor.

Virgin Spaceship Unity (VSS Unity)

​​Last year, an investigation by the National Transportation Safety Body found a fatal October 2014 crash was caused by a catastrophic structural failure triggered when the co-pilot unlocked the craft's braking system early.

The spaceship broke apart over the Mojave Desert during a powered test flight, killing co-pilot Michael Alsbury and seriously injuring pilot Peter Siebold.

Sir Richard Branson and George Whitesides congratulating pilots

Virgin Galactic has said it will officially launch operations from Spaceport America in New Mexico with paying passengers "once it believes it is safe to do so" and it has received all regulatory approvals.

Commander Chris Hadfield's stunning views from space
See Gallery
Commander Chris Hadfield's stunning views from space
"Tonight's Finale: The Richat Structure. A giant gazing eye upon the Earth."
"To commemorate the passing of the Iron Lady, in the centre of these London lights is #10 Downing Street."
"The Australian Outback is effortlessly crazily beautiful."
"The effortless natural art of the southern Sahara."
​"The beautiful and violent ugliness inside a naked volcano. Chad, Africa."
"Beijing just after sunset. I'm still trying to spot the Great Wall, but it's hard as it's narrow and dun-colored."
"A heraldic Spring dragon of ice roars rampant off the coast of Newfoundland."
"Canada rocks."
"Dr. Seuss-inspired swirls in the Black Sea."
"Little farmers, big farmers and nature, in Turkey."
"Big storm swirling off the Irish coast on 9th May."
"A sunny day in Scotland"
"To some this may look like a sunset. But it's a new dawn."
"Hope you Bruins play a memorable game tonight vs the Leafs."

Read Full Story