StratoLaunch: WOW!


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Gawd, this could be spectacular!!


Enter: StratoLaunch, a cooperative venture of major hitters

Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft

Burt Rutan, retired from Scaled Composites

Scaled Composites (SS1 & 2, WhiteKnight 1 & 2)


Dynetics (aerospace integrators)

Essentially a huge launch mothership, the largest aircraft ever flown, with a 115 meter wingspan (!!) and 6 engines from a 747, and a horizontally launched 2 stage launcher built by SpaceX. Wow, just WOW!!



Press Conference:

Paul G. Allen Announces Revolution in Space Transportation Stratolaunch System to bring safer, less expensive, missions

SEATTLE, WA, Dec 13, 2011 ? Entrepreneur and philanthropist Paul G. Allen announced today that he and aerospace pioneer Burt Rutan have reunited to develop the next generation of space travel. Allen and Rutan, whose SpaceShipOne was the first privately-funded, manned rocket ship to fly beyond earth?s atmosphere, are developing a revolutionary approach to space transportation: an air-launch system to provide orbital access to space with greater safety, cost-effectiveness and flexibility.

The space flight revolution Allen and Rutan pioneered in 2004 with SpaceShipOne now enters a new era. Only months after the last shuttle flight closed an important chapter in spaceflight, Allen is stepping in with an ambitious effort to continue America?s drive for space.

?I have long dreamed about taking the next big step in private space flight after the success of SpaceShipOne ? to offer a flexible, orbital space delivery system,? Allen said. ?We are at the dawn of radical change in the space launch industry. Stratolaunch Systems is pioneering an innovative solution that will revolutionize space travel.?

Allen?s new company, Stratolaunch Systems, will build a mobile launch system with three primary components:

* A carrier aircraft, developed by Scaled Composites, the aircraft manufacturer and assembler founded by Rutan. It will be the largest aircraft ever flown.

* A multi-stage booster, manufactured by Elon Musk?s Space Exploration Technologies;

* A state-of-the-art mating and integration system allowing the carrier aircraft to safely carry a booster weighing up to 490,000 pounds. It will be built by Dynetics, a leader in the field of aerospace engineering.

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. Now, we will have the opportunity to extend that capability to orbit and beyond. Paul has proven himself a visionary with the will, commitment and courage to continue pushing the boundaries of space technology. We are well aware of the challenges ahead, but we have put together an incredible research team that will draw inspiration from Paul?s vision.?

To lead the Stratolaunch Systems team, Allen picked a veteran NASA official with years of experience in engineering, management and human spaceflight. Stratolaunch Systems CEO and President Gary Wentz, a former chief engineer at NASA, said the system?s design will revolutionize space travel.

Former NASA Administrator Mike Griffin, also a Stratolaunch board member, joined Allen and Rutan at a press conference in Seattle to announce the project. ?We believe this technology has the potential to someday make spaceflight routine by removing many of the constraints associated with ground launched rockets,? Griffin said. ?Our system will also provide the flexibility to launch from a large variety of locations.?

The Stratolaunch system will eventually have the capability of launching people into low earth orbit. But the company is taking a building block approach in development of the launch aircraft and booster, with initial efforts focused on unmanned payloads. Human flights will follow, after safety, reliability and operability are demonstrated.

The carrier aircraft will operate from a large airport/spaceport, such as Kennedy Space Center, and will be able to fly up to 1,300 nautical miles to the payload?s launch point.

It will use six 747 engines, have a gross weight of more than 1.2 million pounds and a wingspan of more than 380 feet. For takeoff and landing, it will require a runway 12,000 feet long. Systems onboard the launch aircraft will conduct the countdown and firing of the booster and will monitor the health of the orbital payload.

The plane will be built in a Stratolaunch hangar which will soon be under construction at the Mojave Air and Space Port. It will be near where Scaled Composites built SpaceShipOne which won Allen and Scaled Composites the $10-million Ansari X Prize in 2004 after three successful sub-orbital flights. Scaled Composites is a wholly owned subsidiary of Northrop Grumman.

?Scaled is all about achieving milestones and pursuing breakthroughs, and this project offers both ? building the largest airplane in the world, and achieving the manufacturing breakthroughs that will enable Scaled to accomplish it. We are thrilled to be a part of this development program,? said Scaled Composites President Doug Shane. ?We anticipate significant hiring of engineering, manufacturing, and support staff in the near and medium term.?

The multi-stage booster will be manufactured by California-based Space Exploration Technologies, one of the world?s pre-eminent space transportation companies. ?Paul Allen and Burt Rutan helped generate enormous interest in space with White Knight and SpaceShipOne,? said SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell. ?There was no way we weren?t going to be involved in their next great endeavor. We are very excited.?

Dynetics will provide the mating and integration system and the systems engineering, integration, test and operations support for the entire air-launch system. The mating and integration system will be manufactured in Huntsville, Alabama in Dynetics? new 226,500 square foot prototyping facility. Dynetics has been a leader in aerospace engineering since 1974. ?We are excited to play such a major role on this system. This is an ambitious project unlike any that has been undertaken and I am confident the Stratolaunch team has the experience and capabilities to accomplish the mission,? said Dynetics Executive Vice President and Stratolaunch Board Member David King.

Stratolaunch Systems? corporate headquarters is located in Huntsville, Alabama. Today?s announcement was the first public word that Allen and Rutan were back in the space business. But space has long been on Allen?s mind. In the close of his memoir, Idea Man, published earlier this year, he hinted at his plans, writing that he was ?considering a new initiative with that magical contraption I never wearied of sketching as a boy: the rocket ship.?

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Howard Hughes lives ?

I guess it's cool, but it seems like there would be better ways to launch into space. Also seems a bit reverse, a plane to launch a rocket into space :)

We need huge vacuum tube mag rail launchers built into mountains. That would be cool.

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It's actually very smart - the plane is a flyback, reusable first stage, and by the time the Falcon 4/5 (a Falcon 9 with just 4 or 5 engines) is launched it's above most of the atmosphere so drag is reduced. It can also do cargo or crew Dragon launches.

Promo video

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Aviation Week article....

13.5 metric to low Earth orbit

747-400 engines, flight deck, landing gear & systems.

Falcon 9 shell with 5 or 6 engines (conflicts with earlirr data) and wings

Falcon will use a feathered flight profile like SpaceShipOne/SpaceShipTwo - the wings will tip up to glide the stage down for recovery.

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Burt Rutan is genius when it comes to this stuff. Look what he did with Space Ship One. If we're ever going back to the moon and a manned mission to Mars it'll be privateers like Rutan that get us there.

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Size comparison image attached to show how huge the StratoLaunch carrier aircraft will be. Note the itty-bitty human sized speck in the lower right corner. Yikes!

People in the space community are already taking about carrying (and neoadorable will love this ;) ) a scaled to fit single stage to orbit (SSTO) spaceplane similar to NASA's canceled Venture Star under that big ass wing.


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heh heh once more you make my day Doc, now i officially like this boat! she's a bigun! is that a 747 i spy on the left side? well, if this ship can be built, i'll be the first in line to watch the first flight. and technically the shuttle she'll carry won't be SSTO, right? i mean the Strato is already one stage. but if they can help me loft my Valkyrie shuttle and prove that she works, that'll be beyond awesome!

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Yeah, that blue plane to the left f the ISS is a 747 which has a 212 ft wingspan. An Airbus A380 is 262 ft. An Antonov 225 is 290 ft. The Spruce Goose was 320 ft. The Strato is 385 ft.

In aerospace the Stato would count as a half stage, or colloquially a "zeroth" stage (appropriated from Asimov's post-3 Laws 'zeroth' Law of Robotics) so the spaceplane would technically be a 1.5 STO.

Still pretty good, but remember the Venture Star was designed to be an SSTO.

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thanks for the explanation! if this means the Venture Star can come back, i'll take 1.5 stages to orbit...of course if BOTH of these ladies can fly, the Starto and the VS, i'll be truly a happy camper!

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  • 2 months later...

Both Scaled Composites (now part of Northrop Grumman) and major defense contractor BAE Systems are in on the act -

Stratolaunch Accepts First 747 for New Launch Aircraft

HUNTSVILLE, AL, February 15, 2012 (Stratolaunch PR) - Today Stratolaunch systems closed on purchase of the first of two Boeing 747-400 aircraft that are being purchased from United Airlines.

Stratolaunch contractor Scaled Composites of Mojave California with support from their subcontractor BAE Systems has developed a complete plan for how the engines, landing gear, hydraulics and other subsystem components of these aircraft will be disassembled and reintegrated into a custom composite aircraft to be built by Scaled Composites in Stratolaunch?s new integration facility being built at the Mojave Air and Space Port.

Tail number N196UA made its final journey on its way to becoming part of a revolutionary new aircraft last Friday and after final receiving inspection we have accepted the aircraft from United.

?The arrival of the first 747 aircraft in Mojave is extremely exciting for our team. This demonstrates Mr. Allen?s commitment to press forward with establishing a space transportation system that will change the way we currently perform space launch,? said Gary Wentz, CEO and President of Stratolaunch. A second aircraft will arrive in Mojave in late February to provide most of the remaining 747-400 components needed to assemble Stratolaunch?s new mother ship.

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There's is something though.

Aren't rockets structurally constructed to always be standing or laying down with support all the way along it's length? This system seems like it would require rockets with much stronger inner support able to be held from a rather small area and not deform under the weight and stress of flight.

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The Falcon 4/5 used for this will be built for horizontal launch. This mod will be easier to do with Falcon as SpaceX uses a monocoque structure and not the usual skin & tank construction. Besides load adaptation it lets them shorten or lengthen the tankage at will and even change the core diameter to a larger one by reprogramming the metal rollers that bend the core segments before they're friction stir welded together. An example of this core modding capability will be Falxon Heavy which will use two regular length Falcon 9 cores for the side boosters and one 'stretch' core in the center.

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  • 2 weeks later...


Stratolaunch nears conclusion of systems design review

Stratolaunch is to complete the systems design review (SDR) of its new launch system "in the next couple of months".

That is the timeframe set out by Jim Halsell, director of Stratolaunch systems at Dynetics, which has been contracted to design the technical integration and to mate and demate procedures and systems.

"We are on the cusp of doing the systems design review, and we're moving toward a preliminary design review [PDR]," said Halsell. "Between those two, the SDR and the PDR, we will lock down the details of the technical approach, the outer mold lines of all the systems. It's the grunt early work of designing a complex system."

Major system trades and exact specifications, including information crucial to operation such as maximum gross take-off weight and required runway length, will not be finalised until the PDR.

Disclosed in December 2011, the ambitious Stratolaunch system involves a massive Scaled Composites-built aircraft with a SpaceX-built rocket suspended between twin fuselages. The system will launch payloads of up to 6,100kg (13,500lb) in weight and 5m (16.4ft) in diameter into low Earth orbit (LEO). Although Stratolaunch eventually hopes to launch people into orbit and will build to strict human spaceflight standards, design efforts are on hold while the focus is on building and testing the launch system.

Preliminary construction has begun on the assembly facility in Mojave, California, where the aircraft will be built and tested. Construction of a wing spar and wing box for test purposes has also begun, with actual operational examples scheduled for completion in the summer.

Scaled Composites has selected two ex-United Airlines Boeing 747-400s, from which the company will take the Pratt & Whitney 4056 engines, hydraulic system, electrical systems, landing gear and windshields, among other major components.

"While the 747-400 wasn't the only airplane [available], it quickly became apparent that it was a good choice, and that a lot of the systems were designed for the take-off and landing weights in the family of what we're talking about here," said Halsell. "The hydraulic systems, the electrical systems, all of them had the kind of capacity or greater than what we would need for our application."

The first rocket launch is scheduled for 2016; no customers have yet stepped forward, but Stratolaunch hopes to be competitive in the light-to-medium satellite market, a growing market in a niche inhabited by the SpaceX Falcon 1, Boeing Delta II and Orbital Sciences Antares launch vehicles. Production of both the Falcon 1 and Delta II have ceased, although options remain for restarting production, and the Antares has yet to complete its first launch, scheduled for June 2012.

Although Stratolaunch officials have repeatedly mentioned plans to operate from the NASA Kennedy Space Center (KSC) runway, one of the longest and widest runways in the world, there has as yet been no formal agreement between Stratolaunch and facility operator Space Florida.

Operating from the KSC runway would enable Stratolaunch to fly south, closer to the equator, allowing greater payload and launch azimuth flexibility. Launching to the east over the Atlantic Ocean would take advantage of the Earth's rotation, allowing additional advantages.

Only a single aircraft will be produced, but Stratolaunch is open to building more aircraft. "Certainly our technical focus right now is making it work for a launch platform," said Halsell. "However, it is not beyond a stretch of the imagination, if a customer were to come to us and say, 'I need an externally carried large payload of significant mass and also volume requirements,' we would certainly value the opportunity to take a swing at satisfying those requirements."

According to Stratolaunch chief executive Gary Wentz, a larger version of the aircraft is feasible for launching larger rockets or carrying outsize cargo. "Based on physics and aerodynamics, scaling up is feasible," he said. "Material selection and design of the wing structure will have a great effect. Also, growing the wing to be much longer presents operational issues with runway selection."

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Good news though very preliminary. If they can make her even bigger it would be good for all the bulky oversized stuff well need when building thoseLa Grange outposts

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heh heh you said monocoque...i prefer unibody if you don't mind. And the more ways we have to get to orbit, the better. To say I'm a fan of this one would be a stretch, its payload is too small!

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They're already talking this as Phase I with an even larger mothership to come. Believe me, THAT got tongues wagging on the adronautics sites.

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  • 7 months later...
  • 3 weeks later...

The Stratolaunch production facility is open for business -

MOJAVE, CALIF., October 10, 2012 - The Stratolaunch Systems Corporation, a Paul G. Allen project, announced the opening of their production facility at the Mojave Air and Space Port. The energy efficient 88,000 square foot facility will be used to construct the composite sections of the wing and fuselage sections which will be assembled into the carrier aircraft. The carrier aircraft will be used to position the rocket to its launch point. This facility paves the way forward for Stratolaunch to commence manufacturing of the numerous wing and fuselage assemblies within the calendar year. This is one of two facilities that will be built in Mojave to construct the carrier aircraft. The other facility, currently under construction, will house the carrier aircraft during assembly and test. "Today is a significant milestone in our program. We are very excited to open the production facility and commence the major construction activities related to the carrier aircraft. We are very proud of the work that has been done by Wallace and Smith General Contractors. They completed this facility 2 months ahead of schedule and on budget. We look forward to increasing the talented workforce of Scaled Composites in the Antelope Valley to commence this major construction effort", said Gary Wentz, President and CEO.



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This is the mega-hanger Jeff Bezos was looking for in those mid to late 90's radio commercials, remember? heh heh now I guess he doesn't need it anymore so time to build MONSTER SPACEPLANES!

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  • 3 months later...

Stratolaunch Systems Opens Hangar in Mojave

Stratolaunch Systems completed work on its large hangar at the Mojave Air and Space Port last Wednesday, opening it up for employees to begin to occupy, spaceport CEO Stu Witt said on Tuesday.

The hangar is designed to accommodate the rocket company?s carrier aircraft, which will have a wingspan of 385 feet. The aircraft will air-launch rockets that will place satellites into orbit.

Stratolaunch Systems opened an 88,000 square foot production building adjacent to the hangar in October. The facility is being used to construct the composite sections of the aircraft?s wings and fuselage.

The venture is being backed by Microsoft billionaire Paul Allen. Partners include Mojave-based Scaled Composites, Dynetics and Orbital Sciences Corporation.

Witt told the spaceport?s Board of Directors that Riccomini Avenue, which provides access to Stratolaunch and Virgin Galactic facilities, has become so busy that it is beginning to experience something that is quite rare in the desert: traffic congestion.

Spaceport officials also are working with the California Highway Patrol to determine how to re-engineer one intersection where some motorists are having trouble heeding a stop sign. For some reason, some drivers are just not seeing it, Witt said.

2012 construction photo


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