Burt Rutan’s privately-built SpaceshipOne is one step closer to winning the X-Prize after zooming to what witnesses say was somewhere around 200,000 feet on only its third powered flight.

Chalk up another booming flight of the privately-backed SpaceShipOne, the piloted rocket plane designed to soar to the edge of space and glide to a runway landing.

With pilot Mike Melvill at the controls — following release from the White Knight turbojet-powered launch aircraft high above the Mojave, California desert — SpaceShipOne punched through the sky today boosted by a hybrid propellant rocket motor.

Scaled Composites of Mojave is the builder of SpaceShipOne, an effort led by aviation innovator, Burt Rutan. The financial backer of the project is Microsoft mogul, Paul Allen.

In a post-flight statement from the company, the SpaceShipOne team reported that their space plane flew to 212,000 feet altitude, almost 41 miles. NASA awards astronaut status to anyone who flies above 50 miles in altitude.

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