Once all astronauts are safely onboard, WhiteKnightTwo will take off and climb to an altitude of ~50,000 feet and after performing all necessary vehicle and safety checks, the pilots will release SpaceShipTwo from WhiteKnightTwo for the start of the next stage of the flight.
Within seconds, the rocket motor will be engaged, and SpaceShipTwo will quickly accelerate to approximately three and a half times the speed of sound, producing moderate G-forces and propelling the vehicle and its crew on their way to space. After the rocket motor has fired for around a minute, the pilots will safely shut it down. Having just experienced a thrilling, dynamic rocket ride, the dramatic transition to silence and to true weightlessness will be a profound moment for our astronauts as they coast upwards towards space.
As SpaceShipTwo coasts up into space, our astronauts will leave their seats and experience true, unencumbered weightlessness. The pilots will maneuver the spaceship in order to give the astronauts the best possible view of Earth and the blackness of space from vehicle’s twelve large cabin windows.
After several minutes of weightlessness, our astronauts will return to their seats to prepare for re-entry. Personalized seats, custom-designed to safely support each astronaut during every phase of flight, will provide cushioning as the spaceship rapidly decelerates upon re-entry. Once SpaceShipTwo has safely re-entered the atmosphere, the vehicle’s wings will be returned to their normal configuration, and the spaceship will glide back to the original runway. Upon landing, the newly-official astronauts will join their family and friends to celebrate their spaceflight in true Virgin style.
SpaceShipTwo is a reusable, winged spacecraft designed to repeatedly carry as many as eight people (including two pilots) into space — a larger total flight crew than any previous space mission except for NASA’s 8-member STS-61-A mission in 1985. Everyone on board SpaceShipTwo will earn official astronaut status, just like the pilots who flew the X-15 spaceplane.