Virgin Galactic’s VSS Unity spacecraft is one step closer to welcoming commercial passengers after a successful sixth test glide on Friday.

The plane, known as SpaceShipTwo, was trialling for rocket-powered flights by holding 1,000lbs (454kg) of water to simulate the weight of fuel.

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It was taken up 40,000 feet (12km) into the skies by a carrier aircraft, named VMS Eve, and released. On the way to land, the pilots tested various manoeuvres and equipment, including a high-g pull-up manoeuvre and bank-to-bank rolls.

Previous tests ejected the water on board, but this time the pilots landed the craft landed successfully with a full load of water in the Mojave Desert in North America.

Chief pilot David Mackay said of the flight: “We are really pleased with what we saw today.

“We collected hundreds of gigabytes of data for us to review, and from the pilots’ point of view, it felt really wonderful.”

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