Virgin will broadcast coverage of the flight beginning at 9am ET, with Stephen Colbert presenting the live stream. Singer Khalid is scheduled to perform a new song after the team lands, and Elon Musk, the founder of SpaceX, suggested he can make an appearance.
What is Virgin Galactic’s space plane and what will it do?
The rocket plane, a type called the SpaceShipTwo, is about the size of a business jet. In addition to the two pilots, there will be four people in the cockpit. This particular SpaceShipTwo is called VSS Unity.
To take off, Unity is carried by a larger aircraft at an altitude of approximately 50,000 feet. There, Unity will launch and the rocket plane’s engine will be turned on. Acceleration will cause people on board to feel a force of up to 3.5 times their normal weight on the road at an altitude of more than 50 miles.
At the top of the arch, those on board will be able to rise from their seats and experience about four minutes of apparent weightlessness. Of course, they haven’t really escaped gravity. Fifty miles up, Earth’s downward gravitational pull is essentially as strong as it is on the ground; rather, passengers will fall at the same rate as the plane around them.