Virgin Galactic reached nearly halfway to space in the second powered flight of its Unity spacecraft Tuesday, putting the company only months away from launching its first commercial passengers.
"It will be something like two or three more flights before we're actually in space," founder Richard Branson told CNBC after the second test flight, which he called "a tremendous step in the right direction toward accomplishing our goals."
Branson's space company has "a step-by-step cautious approach" in its testing program, he said, doing "whatever it takes to make absolutely certain that we've put everything to bed" before trying to send humans into space. Tuesday's flight was its second rocket-powered launch since the fatal crash of its Enterprise spacecraft on Oct. 31, 2014. Unity underwent extensive engine testing and seven glide tests before Virgin Galactic said it was ready to make another rocket-powered flight.