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CNN - With the end of the NASA shuttle program, most agree the future of space exploration will be in the private sector.

Billionaire Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic is pushing to be at the vanguard of that shift.

Thursday, the company launched a successful test flight of what they hope will usher in a new area of commercial space travel.

Virgin Galactic's "Spaceship 2" rocketed across the skies over California. The company says the ship broke the sound barrier and climbed from 42,000 to 69,000 feet over the Mojave Desert.

Spaceship Two is intended to be a commercial spacecraft.

The first commercial flights should take off in 2014. More than 500 people are already signed up.

The two-hour flights are going for $200,000 a seat.