Billionaire Paul Allen and Burt Rutan announched a new venture for manned space travel. It will be the largest aircraft ever built based off of the carrier/space booster plan profile that the White Knight/SpaceShipOne was.
Broken down, you have the giant carrier aircraft which will built by Rutan's Scale Composites. The other part of the system is the multi-stage booster to be built by Elon Musk's SpaceX. The Mating and integration system that can handle up to 490,000 pounds will be built by Dynetics.
Quote: Stratolaunch Systems will bring airport-like operations to the launch of commercial and government payloads and, eventually, human missions. Plans call for a first flight within five years. The air-launch-to-orbit system will mean lower costs, greater safety, and more flexibility and responsiveness than is possible today with ground-based systems. Stratolaunch's quick turnaround between launches will enable new orbital missions as well as break the logjam of missions queued up for launch facilities and a chance at space. Rutan, who has joined Stratolaunch Systems as a board member, said he was thrilled to be back working with Allen. "Paul and I pioneered private space travel with SpaceShipOne, which led to Virgin Galactic's commercial suborbital SpaceShipTwo Program. end quote.
The new carrier aircraft if huge. It will have a wingspan of 380 feet which is longer than that of a football field. Quoting Burt Rutan: "You should never show this airplane, or a model of it, without right next to it, showing a plane that we know how big it is, like a little 747." end quote.
The carrier will have six turbofn engines - the type use of Boeing 747s. It will have a take-off weight of 1.2 million pounds and it will need a runway of 12,000 feet long to get off the ground. More than likely, it will have to take off from the Space Shuttle runway at the Kennedy Space Center.
Initially, Stratolaunch Systems will focus on cargo flights, but human flights quote: "will follow after safety, reliability, and operability are demonstrated."
First flight should take place before the end of the decade. Also, if you have problems viewing the video, just click on it to watch it on YouTube.
1. NSS Blog. "Stratolaunch Systems: New Space Launch System Announced by Paul Allen" December 13, 2011. (http://blog.nss.org/?p=3167).
2. cnet.com. "Paul Allen's Stratolaunch: Grand plan for next-gen space travel" by Daniel Terdiman. December 13, 2011. (http://news.cnet.com/8301-13772_3-57342415-52/paul-allens-stratolaunch-grand-plan-for-next-gen-space-travel/). image from article.
3. Stratolaunch website (http://www.stratolaunch.com/)
4. New Space Journal.com. "Paul Allen to unveil Stratolaunch Systems today" December 13, 2011. (http://www.newspacejournal.com/2011/12/13/paul-allen-to-unveil-stratolaunch-systems-today/).