UPDATE: Virgin Galactic has now unveiled video of the launch. See above:

Richard Branson's quest to put paying tourists into space took another leap forward with its third and highest supersonic test flight over the weekend.

The Virgin Galactic craft Space Ship Two was able to reach 71,000 feet (a new record for the craft) at a speed of mach 1.4, after being dropped by the White Knight Two 'mothership' at around 46,000 feet.

The smaller SS2 fired its rocket motor and launched Virgin Galactic chief pilot David Mackay and test pilot Mark Stucky to the new record height, testing new instruments before gliding back down to Earth with its unique 'feather' re-entry system.

Virgin Galactic said that the crucial RCS and thermal protection coatings were tested - both systems that will allow pilots to change the position of the vehicle in space, "permitting an optimal viewing experience for those on board and aiding the positioning process for spacecraft re-entry".

Sir Richard Branson said: "I couldn’t be happier to start the New Year with all the pieces visibly in place for the start of full space flights. 2014 will be the year when we will finally put our beautiful spaceship in her natural environment of space. Today, we had our own Chief Pilot flying another flawless supersonic flight and proving the various systems required to take us safely to space, as well as providing the very best experience while we’re up there."

Take a look at the launch and pictures of the craft below.

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  • Virgin Galactic Third Supersonic Test Flight

  • Virgin Galactic Third Supersonic Test Flight

  • Virgin Galactic Third Supersonic Test Flight

  • FILE - In this April 29, 2013 photo provided by Virgin Galactic, the company's SpaceShipTwo fires its rockets over Mojave, Calif. after it was dropped from its "mothership," WhiteKnightTwo. It is one of several new private ventures that involve taking people into outer space for a price, ventures that many hope will become as lucrative as they are revolutionary. And that prospect has California racing other states to woo new space companies with cushy incentives. (AP Photo/Virgin Galactic, Mark Greenberg, file)

  • FILE - This Oct. 17, 2011 file photo shows the Spaceport America hangar behind the Virgin Galactic's jet-powered carrier aircraft WhiteKnightTwo, in Upham, N.M. It is a part of one of several new private ventures that involve taking people into outer space for a price, ventures that many hope will become as lucrative as they are revolutionary. And that prospect has California racing other states to woo new space companies with cushy incentives. (AP Photo/Matt York, File)

  • This photo provided by Virgin Galactic shows Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo under rocket power, its first ever since the program began in 2005. The spacecraft was dropped from its "mothership," WhiteKnightTwo, over Mojave, Calif., on Monday, April 29, 2013. The spaceship, bankrolled by British tycoon Sir Richard Branson, made its first powered flight in a test that moves Virgin Galactic toward its goal of flying into space later this year. While SpaceShipTwo did not break out of the atmosphere during the test flight, it marked a significant milestone for Virgin Galactic, which intends to take passengers on suborbital joyrides. (AP Photo/Virgin Galactic, Mark Greenberg)

  • FILE - In this Dec. 7, 2009 file photo, Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo, a spacecraft designed to rocket tourists into space, is unveiled in Mojave, Calif. It is one of several new private ventures that involve taking people into outer space for a price, ventures that many hope will become as lucrative as they are revolutionary. And that prospect has California racing other states to woo new space companies with cushy incentives. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, file)

  • Richard Branson

    British billionaire Richard Branson poses for the photographers in the window of a replica of the Virgin Galactic, which according to the company will be the world’s first commercial spaceline, at the Farnborough International Airshow in Farnborough, England, Wednesday, July 11, 2012.Virgin Galactic announced “LauncherOne,” a new air-launched rocket specifically designed to deliver small satellites into orbit. Commercial flights of the new orbital launch vehicle are expected to begin by 2016, Virgin Galactic aims to offer frequent and dedicated launches at the world’s lowest prices. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

  • Richard Branson

    British billionaire Richard Branson poses for the photographers beside a replica of the Virgin Galactic, which according to the company will be the world’s first commercial spaceline, at the Farnborough International Airshow in Farnborough, England, Wednesday, July 11, 2012.Virgin Galactic announced “LauncherOne,” a new air-launched rocket specifically designed to deliver small satellites into orbit. Commercial flights of the new orbital launch vehicle are expected to begin by 2016, Virgin Galactic aims to offer frequent and dedicated launches at the world’s lowest prices. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

  • Farnborough International Airshow

    Sir Richard Branson speaks to the media about the Virgin Galactic Space tourism programme at the Farnborough International Airshow 2012 in Hampshire.

  • FILE - In this photo released Oct. 10, 2010 by Virgin Galactic, the Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo, or VSS Enterprise, is released from the mothership, WhiteKnight2, over Mojave, Calif. The Federal Aviation Administration has given an experimental permit to Virgin Galactic's space vehicles. The company said powered test flights were expected toward the end of the year. (AP Photo/Clay Observatory, File)

  • Richard Branson

    Richard Branson, founder of the Branson Group, talks during an interview, Thursday, Dec. 1, 2011 in his company's New York office. Branson is promoting his book, "Screw Business as Usual." On the wall is a photograph of White Knight II, an aircraft built by Virgin Galactic. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)