If successful, it would be a major step toward the long-delayed dream of commercial space tourism.

The next test flight could come as early as Thursday with the rocket-powered spacecraft soaring high above California's Mojave Desert.

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Development of the Virgin Galactic spaceship took far longer than expected and endured a setback when the first one broke apart during a 2014 test flight, killing the co-pilot. 

A company statement says the next test flights aim to "reach a space altitude for the first time."

Hundreds of people have signed up to pay as much as $250,000 for a supersonic thrill ride on the six-passenger spaceship.