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First VSS Unity flight shows progress toward commercial space travel

The VSS Unity completed its first powered flight on Thursday.

This is an important step toward commercial space flight.

Virgin Galactic, the company that built Unity, published a video showing the rocket flying in the stratosphere above Earth. The minute-long video showed different angles of the flight before the ship headed back down and landed.

An article on the website said the spaceship accelerated to a speed of Mach 1.87, approximately 1,434.8 miles per hour.

One mach is the speed of sound.

The ship rose more than 84,000 feet in the air – about 16 miles – over the Sierra Nevada Mountains before returning to the ground in the Mohave Desert in California.

This was the first SpaceShipTwo flight since Oct. 31, 2014, according to Space.com. In that flight, the VSS Enterprise had a failure and broke apart in-flight. One co-pilot died and the other was injured.

That crash didn’t halt the goal of commercial flight. The successful flight Thursday marked the beginning of the final portion of the flight’s test program, according to the Virgin Galactic site.

In April 2017, company founder Sir Richard Branson told The Telegraph he would be “very disappointed” if flights haven’t started by the end of this year.

About 500 potential passengers have already spent $250,000 to reserve a spot on a trip, according to the Telegraph.