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An important feature of SpaceShipTwo is its ability to remain stable during turbulence when re-entering the Earth's atmosphere. The craft's tail can be rotated upwards by 65 degrees to generate very high drag during re-entry, and create a stable orientation.
The combination of high drag and low weight, due to the very light materials used to construct the vehicle, means that the skin temperature during re-entry stays very low compared to previous manned spacecraft. Thermal protection systems such as heat shields or tiles are not needed.
Following re-entry at around 70,000 feet, the tail returns to its original position and the spaceship becomes a glider for the flight back to the spaceport runway.
Photo: Nick Heath