Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo suborbital spacecraft completed a nearly three-hour captive-carry flight test March 22 over California’s Mojave desert.

SpaceShipTwo took off from the Mojave Air and Space Port attached to its WhiteKnightTwo carrier plane for a 2 hour and 54 minute shakeout flight that achieved an altitude of 13,716 meters, according to a Virgin Galactic press release.

Virgin Galactic and Scaled Composites, the Mojave, Calif.-based company that built SpaceShipTwo and its carrier craft, plan to conduct additional test flights in the months ahead, eventually leading to drop tests followed by the first powered test of SpaceShipTwo by year’s end.

Virgin Galactic hopes to begin flying paying passengers to the edge of space by late 2011 or early 2012. SpaceShip-Two can accommodate two pilots and six passengers.