After three days of training and preparation at Spaceport America, Virgin Galactic astronauts will board SpaceShipTwo – mated to its carrier aircraft, WhiteKnightTwo – in the early morning, dressed in custom fitted flight suits and fully equipped to fly. After a conventional runway take-off, the vehicles will climb to an altitude of ~50,000 feet. At that point, the spaceship will be released from the aircraft and enter a gentle glide.
Within seconds, the rocket motor will be fired and the spaceship’s nose pitched to a near vertical climb. A surge of energy will produce acceleration forces of around 3.5G and propel the spaceship to speeds approaching three and a half times the speed of sound towards the black sky of space.
At the appropriate moment, the pilots will shut off the rocket motor, immediately allowing those on board to leave their seats for several minutes of true, unencumbered weightlessness. The pilots will manoeuvre the spaceship to give the best possible views of Earth and the blackness of space, while raising the vehicle’s wings to its “feathered” re-entry configuration. As gravity pulls the spaceship back towards the earth’s upper atmosphere, astronauts will return to their personalised, custom-designed seats which will provide support and comfort as the air outside the spaceship thickens and the spaceship rapidly decelerates.
At around 50,000ft, after re-entry, the spaceship’s wings will be returned to their normal configuration, ready for a dynamic glide back to Spaceport America for a smooth runway landing.
As our newly-official astronauts step out of the spaceship, they will be part of the most exclusive group of adventurers in the world and ready to join their family and friends to celebrate in true Virgin style.