A rocket plane called SpaceShipOne has lifted off with the goal of making the world's first privately-funded manned spaceflight.
The plane was attached to a larger aircraft that took off from a runway in California's Mojave Desert a short time ago.
The plane will be carried to an altitude of about 15 kilometers. From there, its own rocket engines will propel the spacecraft to 100 kilometers, into sub-orbital space.
The pilot, 62-year-old Michael Melvill, will then steer the craft into a 15- to 20-minute glide back to a desert landing.
SpaceShipOne's builder, aerospace designer Burt Rutan, says the project reflects the "enormous pent-up hunger to fly in space." He says he expects affordable human space flights to become a reality in coming years.
The SpaceShipOne project was financed by Paul Allen, a founder of Microsoft Corporation.
Information for this report is provided by AP and AFP.