It was one big step toward plans to reach orbit early next year with Long Beach-based Virgin Orbit’s “flawless” test flight of its rocket which soared under the wing of a customized former passenger aircraft over Southern California on Sunday.

The 70-foot-long carbon-fiber two-stage LauncherOne rocket was paired in late October with the specially modified 747-400 Cosmic Girl which serves as a “flying launch pad,” according to the company.

Virgin Orbit, which is the sister company to Virgin Galactic and The Spaceship Co. and founded by Sir Richard Branson, plans to launch small satellites into space.

The 80-minute-long test flight was completed in the city of Victorville, about two hours northeast of Long Beach. Company officials said the test facility there is close to Virgin Orbit’s Long Beach factory and to one of its operational launch sites, the Mojave Air and Space Port.

The flight crew assessed the take-off, landing and low-speed handling and performance of the integrated system, according to a press release.

Virgin Orbit CEO Dan Hart described the test as “a picture-perfect flight, and a major step forward in our quest to bring a new capability to small satellite launch.”

The company plans to conduct several more flights of Cosmic Girl with and without a LauncherOne rocket. Testing will end with a “drop test” during which a rocket will be released from Cosmic Girl without igniting.

Virgin Orbit’s first space shot is projected to be completed in early 2019, with multiple trips to orbit expected to be conducted in the coming year. Rockets have already begun to be built, tested and integrated at the Long Beach manufacturing facility in Douglas Park.

Stephanie Rivera is the community engagement editor. Reach her at [email protected] or on Twitter at @StephRivera88.