Two months after the inaugural spaceflight, Virgin Galactic's spacecraft Unity has done it again.
Virgin Galactic sent three human beings on Unity for the first time in Friday's supersonic test flight, which reached three times the speed of sound on its way up. Just before the flight, Richard Branson's space tourism company told CNBC that astronaut trainer Beth Moses is on the company's spacecraft Unity, along with the two pilots.
"Beth Moses is on board as a crew member," a Virgin Galactic spokeswoman told CNBC. "She will be doing validation of some of the cabin design elements."
This is the first time Virgin Galactic carried three human beings on its ride to the edge of space. In previous test flights, the two pilots were the only ones inside of the spacecraft.
Virgin Galactic's spacecraft Unity holds up to six passengers along with the two pilots. As the company has more than 600 would-be astronauts signed on to launch, Moses' work is key to preparing Virgin Galactic for commercial operations. Tickets for Virgin Galactic's flights are priced at $250,000 each.
Pilots Dave Mackay and Michael "Sooch" Masucci also became astronauts, as the company said the test flight reached an altitude of 55.9 miles, or nearly 90 kilometers. MacKay, Masucci and Moses join a list of less than 600 human beings who have flown in space.
The U.S. officially consider pilots who have flown above 80 kilometers to be astronauts. Following Virgin Galactic's first successful spaceflight in December, the Department of Transportation awarded pilots Mark Stucky and C.J Sturckow with commercial astronaut wings – only the third and fourth such people recognized as private astronauts.
Unity also carried NASA-funded payloads on this mission. Under NASA's Flight Opportunities program, four experiments flew on board the spacecraft. NASA said that most of these same experiments flew on Unity's first spaceflight, while two also launched on Blue Origin's rocket test flight in January.
"Regular access to reduced-gravity lets researchers collect data needed to mature their technologies for use in deep space," NASA said in a statement.