In addition to the test pilots, a flight test dummy and four research payloads from NASA's Flight Opportunities Program were on board to help simulate the weight distribution of having passengers on board.
If everything goes according to plan, Virgin's first tourists will take flight in around 18 months, Branson says.
In the eyes of the USA however, the boundary has been passed and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has announced that early next year they will present the pilots with FAA Commercial Astronaut Wings at a ceremony in Washington DC.
But years passed, the program suffered delay after delay and in 2014, a fatal setback: The spacecraft came apart mid-flight, killing Michael Alsbury, the pilot.
Just earlier today, Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo achieved true spaceflight for the first time in history, marking a significant day for Virgin Group, as well as a big step towards private "space tourism". When you are in the test flight programme of the company you can never be completely 100 per cent sure - because that's what a test flight programme is - to test it to its limits. If you have a trip to space on your mind, even on a very whimsical level, know that Richard Branson shares your vision.
Virgin Galactic Mission Control confirmed the spaceships safe entry into space with the message to the two astronaut pilots: "Unity, Welcome to Space".
Virgin Galactic has almost 700 people who have paid as much as $250,000 for its suborbital joyrides - more than the 560 or so people who have ever been to space.
When Branson licensed the SpaceShipOne technology, he envisioned a fleet carrying paying passengers by 2007, launching them from a facility in southern New Mexico called Spaceport America.
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The 50 second flight pushed VSS Unity to a speed of Mach 2.9 (3,580 km/h) as it zoomed into a climb toward the edge of space, but far short of the Karman Line.
"I believe that sometime in the second half of next year that we will start being able to put regular people up into space", Branson said, describing Thursday as one of the best days of his life.
"It's very similar to the 1920s with commercial flights across the Atlantic".
Sturckow is also a former Marine and was a NASA astronaut who flew on four Space Shuttle missions.
Virgin isn't alone in the commercial space race.
Several private companies in the United States have announced plans to offer trips to space.
More than 600 clients have already paid US$250,000 for a ticket.
The tragedy spurred critics of space tourism who have deemed such projects irresponsibly risky.
SpaceX and Northrop Grumman operate cargo ships that launch from the U.S., toting supplies and food to the space station, but not people.