Sports Illustrated: Kate Upton Flies — Literally — Onto Third Swimsuit Cover [Photos]

Kate Upton made the third time a charm. Well, actually, the first and second times worked out pretty well for her, too. But the busty 21-year-old model and reported girlfriend of Detroit Tigers star pitcher Justin Verlander has landed on the cover of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue for the third time.

This time, however, there’s a new wrinkle to the Kate Upton Sports Illustrated cover. The magazine, celebrating the 50th anniversary of its annual billion-dollar cheesecake extravaganza, has included a bonus back cover to go along with the three models who flash their barely-covered booties on the front.

So Kate Upton this time gets the back cover of the swimsuit issue. Eager Sports Illustrated readers, or perhaps in this case “readers,” will need to flip the magazine over to view the eye-popping pic of Kate Upton.

The front cover is occupied by models Nina Agdal, Lily Aldridge, and Chrissy Teigen and their mostly-exposed, sculpted hind quarters.

The inside of the Sports Illustrated 50th Anniversary swimsuit issue features yet more Kate Upton. But again, there’s a new spin on the Sports Illustrated swimsuit theme.

Most often, Sports Illustrated photographs its swimsuit models at the beach, or somewhere similar where it might, by some logic, actually make sense to wear a swimsuit. But for Kate Upton’s shoot, the magazine took her into a specially modified Boeing 727 for a swimsuit shoot in zero gravity.

The experience for the shoot in March of 2013 was achieved by a company that specializes in this sort of thing, aptly named Zero Gravity Experience. Why anyone would want to wear a skimpy bikini in zero gravity is left to the ever-intellectual Sports Illustrated reader to decide. Thought the answer is likely to be, “who cares?”

For those interested in how Sports Illustrated got Kate Upton’s physique to defy gravity, the effect is produced by an aerobatic maneuver called a “parabola.” The pilot flies the 727 at a 45 degree angle upward to 34,000 feet then immediately begins a sharp descent. As the plane drops, it produces several seconds of zero gravity inside the aircraft.

The 727 carrying Kate Upton reportedly took 17 parabolas to get the Sports Illustrated shots in the can.