Virgin Galactic’s spaceship VSS Unity has successfully conducted the first test flight with a full crew, including Virgin founder Sir Richard Branson.

The fourth rocket-powered spaceflight also marks the 22nd test flight of VSS Unity.

The crew members in the cabin were two pilots and four passengers, including chief astronaut instructor Beth Moses, lead operations engineer Colin Bennett, and government affairs VP Sirisha Bandla.

After being separated from the mothership VMS Eve, the VSS Unity cruised at a speed of Mach 3 and reached an altitude of 53.5 miles before landing at Spaceport America.

The crew completed various test objectives, including evaluating commercial customer cabin experience, conditions for conducting research and more.

Virgin Galactic chief executive officer Michael Colglazier said: “Today is a landmark achievement for the company and a historic moment for the new commercial space industry. With each successful mission, we are paving the way for the next generation of astronauts.

“I want to thank our talented team, including our pilots and crew, whose dedication and commitment made today possible. They are helping open the door for greater access to space – so it can be for the many and not just for the few.”

Virgin Galactic live-streamed the spaceflight online and on social media channels such as Twitter, YouTube, and Facebook.

The company plans to perform at least two more test flights of the spacecraft prior to starting commercial operations next year.

It aims to conduct 400 flights a year and has already sold 600 tickets to customers from 60 different countries.