Stratolaunch Systems built the largest plane for private space travel.
Stratolaunch Systems built the largest plane for private space travel
Stratolaunch Systems, a subsidiary of Vulcan Aerospace, is a space transportation venture developing a new air launch to orbit system. The corporate headquarters is located in Seattle, Washington USA.
The purpose of the new company was to develop an aircraft-launched space transportation system, similar to Pegasus rocket which was successfully operated by Orbital ATK (Northrop Grumman), Virgin Galactic WhiteKnight and few other projects, but on an orbital rather than suborbital level.
The project is a mobile launch system with three primary components; a carrier aircraft built by Scaled Composites (currently a subsidiary of Northrop Grumman), a multi-stage payload ‘launch vehicle’ which would be launched at high altitude into space from under the carrier aircraft, plus a mating and integration system by Dynetics.
The Stratolaunch system will be able to deliver payload to space with lower cost comparing to conventional rockets and will be more independent from weather conditions; it will be also independent from expensive rocket launch sites due the fact that it will operate from ordinary runways.
It will start from airfield, reach designated altitude, deploy rocket with payload, return and land on the airfield. Stratolaunch Systems first test flight was conducted in 2016.
Since 2015 Stratolaunch Systems operated under the supervision of Paul Allen’s new company Vulcan Aerospace, a subsidiary of Vulcan, Inc.
In January 2019, Stratolaunch stopped the development of its own air-launched family of launch vehicles, following the death of founder Paul Allen in October 2018, who had been the source of funds for the capital intensive development program. With a lack of vision and no clear direction, the company became a profligate project that soon burnt the billions that it had received from Vulcan, Inc, which was Paul Allen’s investment arm.
In October 2019 Stratolaunch was sold to private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management L.P. and continued regular operations.