Virgin Galactic said its SpaceShipTwo, VSS Unity, has entered the next stage of testing which will “expand the envelope for altitude, air speed, loads, and thermal heating”.
The rocket motor on the spaceship will burn for a longer period on the next flight which is set to take the pilot and aircraft into space for the first time.
Virgin Galactic, founded by Brit billionaire business Sir Richard Branson, said the window for the next phase will begin on this week but the nature of flight testing means it may take longer to get to the milestone.
If this test flight in the Mojave, California, is successful, the two pilots on board will experience an extended period of micro-gravity but “will be stopped in throughout”.
As well as the higher altitudes, the company said they will also look to simulate the commercial weight distribution on the test flight in preparation for future passenger.
A Virgin Galactic spokesman said the rocket would fly “higher and faster”.
He added: “Our widow for our fourth powered test flight opens on December 13, 2018.
“At a basic level, this flight will aim to fly higher and faster. Richard Branson has vowed to be among the first space tourists.Passengers will be able to see the Earth from further away than ever before
“Whether we complete all our objectives during the next flight or need to wait a little longer, we remain committed to completing the final stages of this extraordinary flight test programme as quickly, but more importantly as safely, as possible.”
More than 600 people from 50 different countries have reserved places to fly with Virgin Galactic when all testing has been completed.