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Virgin Spaceship Unity (VSS Unity) glides for the first time after being released from Virgin Mothership Eve (VMS Eve) over the Mojave DesertDec. 3, 2016. (Photo courtesy of Virgin Galactic)

Virgin Galactic conducts 1st powered flight of new spaceship

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Virgin Galactic has conducted the first powered test flight of its new space tourism rocket.

Virgin Galactic tweets that the spaceship named Unity was carried aloft by its mother ship and released over California's Mojave Desert early Thursday.

The company says the spacecraft achieved supersonic speed before the pilots shut down the engine and it glided back to Mojave Air & Space Port.

This was Virgin Galactic's first powered flight since the 2014 crash of its original spaceship that killed one of its two pilots.

Unity was previously flown on test flights in which it remained attached to the mother ship and others in which it was released to glide without lighting the rocket.

Virgin Galactic founder Richard Branson tweets that "Space feels tantalisingly close now."

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Virgin Galactic's new spaceship completed its first glide flight

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