The record-setting Stratolaunch carrier aircraft first took to the skies on April 13,staying aloft for minutes, and successfully landing back in Mojave. Sincewe've been designing, building, and testing the world's largest composite aircraft for Stratolaunch, a Paul G. Allen company. The goal of this mobile launch system is to make orbital access to space more convenient, reliable, and routine. For high resolution first flight photos, download our media pack. The large aircraft project has been an idea our founder, Burt Rutan, has played with for over 20 years.
Various designs have been explored as customer interest came and went. Ultimately, in Paul Allen agreed to pursue this project. Prior to the final contract, Scaled worked to validate fabrication costs by building demonstration pieces to lower the cost of pounds of material labor to man hour. This factor drove the overarching design of the aircraft - flat-sided fuselages with a mostly straight wing.
Learn more about Stratolaunch Systems. Conceptual Design. Systems Design. Part Fabrication. Systems Integration. Experimental Aircraft Flight Testing. Stratolaunch Model No. First Flight April 13, Launching the largest plane in the world. May 31, Stratolaunch rolled outside for the first time to begin ground tests.
Thinking about Stratolaunch flying, its 'just another first flight of another type' but at the same time, 'it's a whole different KIND of airplane.Rockets have been the way to get satellites into orbit since the dawn of the space age.
In another test last Sunday, it hit a new top taxi speed of 46 miles per hour. If all goes according to plan, the plane will take its first test flight next year.
As to when Stratolaunch might begin commercial operations, no date has been given. But none of these other platforms is quite on the scale of Stratolaunch. It has room between its fuselages to suspend rockets from the central portion of the wing. Stratolaunch was designed by Mojave, California-based Scaled Composites, which specializes in concept aircraft. The company won the Ansari X Prize to launch the first private, reusable, manned spacecraft in with its SpaceShipOne, which was also launched from a plane.
Hudson speaks from experience, having co-founded two air launch start-ups that have since shut down: AirLaunch was developing an air-launched rocket in partnership with DARPA and the U.
There are several advantages to launching from high altitude, Hudson says. For one thing, rocket engines perform better in the low pressure and reduced atmospheric drag found at those altitudes. And air launching is far more flexible than ground-based rocketry. The launch pads used to launch ground-based rockets are costly to develop and maintain, and if a payload needs to rendezvous with another spacecraft or space station, it may be necessary to wait up to a week for its orbit to pass overhead.
But the Stratolaunch concept has its drawbacks, including a smaller payload capacity than other options. A spacecraft typically weighs just percent as much as the rocket that launches it, Hudson says. Since Stratolaunch is designed to carry up topounds, its payload capacity is likely to be 5, to 10, pounds. Space X makes the bulk of its non-governmental revenue from launching communications satellites weighing about 10, pounds into GTO, says Hudson.
Finally, building a plane the size of Stratolaunch poses significant engineering challenges, says Mark Drela, a professor of aeronautics and astronautics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. But these problems can be modelled on computers beforehand to help head off problems. Get the Mach newsletter. SpaceX's Falcon Heavy launch could revolutionize space travel Feb.The Stratolaunch Talon-A is a flexible, high-speed testbed built for hypersonic research, experiments, and enabling operational missions.
The Talon-A vehicle provides routine access to high-Mach number, hypersonic flight where data may be collected in the true flight environment. The vehicle is highly instrumented to obtain fundamental aerothermal and performance data, which may provide unique data sets for comparison and calibration of numerical prediction tools. The Talon-A provides here-to-fore unobtainable measurement access to the hypersonic flight environment on a recurring basis. The Talon-A is highly instrumented to collect vehicle and payload experiment data during flight.
Data is collected and recorded on board the vehicle and may be telemetered to ground stations. Both proprietary and classified payloads may be flown with secure data collection and telemetry.
Since the Talon-A is a reusable vehicle, the experiments, payloads, and instrumentation are recovered for inspection and re-use. The large payload capability of the Stratolaunch carrier aircraft enables the captive-carry and air-launch of multiple Talon-A vehicles in a single flight. Up to three Talon-A vehicles may be carried underneath the carrier aircraft center wing with the current pylon design.
This unique capability enables multiple hypersonic flight opportunities on a single day or the near-simultaneous launch of three Talon vehicles, which may support specific operational scenarios. Our innovative Mach 6-class vehicle offers a reliable testing environment, enabling the development of hypersonic systems.
Our Carrier Aircraft can launch up to three Talon-A testbeds in a single mission, making high-speed testing more reliable and routine. Our Stratolaunch plane is the largest in the world. But it takes off and lands from a runway just like any other aircraft. Once it reaches a cruising altitude of 35, ft 10, mone or more launch vehicles are released, allowing for rapid constellation deployment to different inclinations. As the launch vehicles complete their assignments, the Stratolaunch plane heads back to the runway to reload for its next mission.
Meet the Talon-A, a Mach 6-class vehicle designed to make hypersonic testing more routine. A Fully Reusable Hypersonic Vehicle. Autonomous Hypersonic Testing. Built for Speed The Talon-A features a length of 28 feet 8. It will conduct long duration flight at high Mach, and glide back for an autonomous, horizontal landing on a conventional runway. It will also be capable of autonomous take-off, under its own power, via a conventional runway.
Iterative flight test exposure reduces customer development schedule, cost and technology risk:. Flexibility Inside and Out The Talon-A has the ability to customize instrument locations throughout the vehicle: Customizable payload volumes Internal and external experiments Sensors, optical windows, instrumentation, materials, hypersonic data.
Our hypersonic testbeds will serve as a catalyst in sparking a renaissance in hypersonic technologies for our government, the commercial sector, and academia.New ownership has spared Stratolaunchthe company behind the massive Roc aircraftthe largest plane ever flown, from a sad end following the death of its founder, Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, last year.
The firm now looks set to take a new direction, providing high-speed flight testing services rather than focus on space launch services, amid a boom in hypersonic weapon and aircraft development within the U.
Reports first emerged that Vulcan had sold Stratolaunch to an unnamed buyer in October. Neither Vulcan nor Cerberus has said what the final agreed-upon price was. Floyd also indicated a shift away from Stratolaunch's original focus of providing space launch services using the Roc, which first flew in Aprilas a mothership to air-launch various vehicles to using that aircraft to support more terrestrial high-speed flight testing.
Recent job listings at the company's Mojave flight facility provide additional evidence of this change in direction.
The company's new ownership is almost certainly driving this decision. Unlike Paul Allen, who regularly talked about the wonders of space and the future of space travelCerberus, and its billionaire owner Steve Feinberg, has long cultivated a more controversial and mercenary image, both figuratively and literally.
Cerberus is a private equity firm that has focused on buying up "distressed" entities, those experiencing serious financial strain or outright in bankruptcy, with the idea of reorganizing them and profiting from their recovery. In the last 20 years, Feinberg's company has acquired, directly or through subsidiariesdefense contractor DynCorp and gunmakers Remington and Bushmasteramong other enterprises.
Feinberg himself has strong ties to President Donald Trump and his administration. It's not clear who Stratolaunch might see as the target customers for its new high-speed flight test services, but Feinberg's connections, together with the boom in hypersonic weapons and aircraft developments within the U.
There are at least a half a dozen U. This is to say nothing of the additional work being done on hypersonic aircraft. This, in turn, has substantially increased the demand for flight test capabilities. These programs both suffered unspecified delays in preparing for these tests, which were supposed to take place this year.
Nearly 40 more hypersonic weapon flight tests are set to occur over the next four years. The speeds, ranges, and flight regimes involved in hypersonic testing also means that, while the U. It can be a challenge just to track and observe the flights of these vehicles, let alone collect important test data and simply provide adequate physical space to explore the full capabilities that they offer.
A briefing slide from showing various efforts the Air Force was conducting at the time to improve hypersonic flight test capabilities. Most recently, the U. PROTN envisages a single networked architecture to rapidly share telemetry and other test data, as well as handle communications between participants in particular tests, who might be hundreds or even thousands of miles apart.
Since the open expanses of the Pacific Ocean have historically provided the best available space to conduct these kinds of flight tests, BOATSS will provide a distributed array of sensors on crewed ships, barges, and remotely operated vehicles in the air and at sea to gather information across a wide area. A briefing slide showing the typical array of air, sea, and ground bases sensors used to collect data during the two tests of the Hypersonic Technology Vehicle 2 HTV-2 in andrespectively.
Sky Range focuses specifically on the development telemetry gathering and other testing related systems and the integration of those onto specially configured RQ-4 Global Hawk and MQ-9 Reaper droneswhich will be known respectively as Range Hawks and Range Reapers. Stratolaunch and the Roc could easily have a role in all this.
Many of the benefits of using flying mothership as a two-stage-to-orbit space launch platform are just as applicable for high-speed flight tests. The plane has the ability to launch its payload thousands of miles from where it took off, opening up the possibility of opening up addition flight test corridors.
This also means that it can rapidly redeploy to other locations in the event the testing location changes on short notice. The Roc also has the ability to carry very large and unusually shaped payloads, a capability that may not otherwise be readily available to the U.
The Air Force's B bombers are presently the go-to option for tests of these kinds of air-launched vehicles, but on a small number of them are dedicated for research and development activities. The Air Force has already begun buying expendable air-launched hypersonic test vehicles, designated XAsto provide a less complicated and lower cost option for various basic hypersonic testing, including gathering data on how certain materials and systems hold up to the strain of flying at speeds in excess of Mach 7.
Stratolaunch could potentially leverage existing development work it did on its own family of space launch vehicles with various payload capacities, including a reusable space plane known as Black Ice, to provide additional testing capacity.
The firm had announced it had canceled all of those projects in January and would instead focus solely on getting the Roc ready to launch the relatively small, but proven Northrop Grumman Pegasus XL onto the aircraft. The massive plane was also designed to be able to carry at least three Pegasus XLs at a time, highlighting the potential for it perform multiple test launches at once with smaller vehicles, as well.
An artist's conception of Stratolaunch's Roc and family of space launch vehicles, the Black Ice reusable space plane, at right.According to National Geographic, a full-grown male African elephant Loxodonta africana masses up to 7 tons. In contrast, Stratolaunch's "Roc" -- the massive rocket-hauling carrier aircraft that the space company unveiled at the end of May -- weighs in at tons.
Despite the difference in size, I suspect we'll soon discover that Stratolaunch's Roc is just a gigantic white elephant, too. Here's why. Stratolaunch's new Roc crept out of its lair on May Image source: Stratolaunch. Stratolaunch is a creation of Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. It's so big, it needs 28 wheels to support its weight as it trundles down the runway. In flight, the Roc is designed to sling a rocket between its two fuselages, carry it to 35, feet, and there release it to blast off into space -- at which point the Roc would return to land and load up with another rocket for launch.
Speaking of that rocket, there is one small issue with Stratolaunch: There don't currently seem to be any rockets of the size it wants to carry that are suitable for air launch. The Roc is designed to carry rockets weighing up to tons, you see.
But Stratolaunch hasn't yet found a rocket of that size that can launch safely from midair. Failing that, the latest plan is to have Stratolaunch instead carry "multiple" three are depicted in Stratolaunch's artist depictions Orbital ATK Pegasus XL rockets and deploy them in series.
Here's another problem with Stratolaunch: Using a huge airplane to help launch even "multiple" small rockets seems to defeat the purpose of building the huge airplane in the first place. After all, there are already at least two companies Virgin Orbital and Orbital ATK itself with aircraft that are suitable for air-launching small satellite rockets. So even if Roc can carry and launch three Pegasus XL rockets at a time, in so doing, it would utilize only 75 out of its ton lift capacity.
Simply put, Roc is overkill for this purpose. This, in turn, leads us to consider another problem with Stratolaunch. Namely, the company boasts that Roc has a "payload" capacity of tons -- which sounds like a lot. But this doesn't mean that Stratolaunch's Roc is 10 times more capable than its nearest ground-launched rocket competitor -- far from it.
The ultimate payload -- the satellite that that rocket itself would put in orbit, is much smaller. How much smaller? Multiply the Pegasus XL's 0. With stats like that, it's hard to see how Stratolaunch can hope to compete with any of these companies.
And it gets worse. At the same time as Stratolaunch is trying to compete with SpaceX, Boeing, and Lockheed in the market for large satellite launches, space companies are gravitating toward launching more, smaller satellites instead -- and a new generation of small space-launch companies is springing up to serve this market.
So, what's the upshot for investors here? Jun 12, at AM. Author Bio. Stock Advisor launched in February of Join Stock Advisor. Related Articles.The Stratolaunch Carrier is designed to eliminate technical and logistical barriers that the hypersonics market faces today. When it comes to choosing your launch dates, the sky is just about the limit. With Stratolaunch, you launch on your timeline and your terms.
Thanks to our maneuverable high-speed vehicles, a single mission can serve multiple customers. Fixed-range launches are just that… fixed. With a mobile launch platform, you can avoid delays.
Unlike traditional ground launches, the Stratolaunch aircraft can take off from dozens of U.
Our air-launch system allows us to avoid hazards like bad weather and conflicting fixed-range launch schedules which often result in costly delays or cancellations. Rain or shine, Stratolaunch gets your payload launched on time. While fixed-range launches are typically scheduled years in advance, Stratolaunch can have your payload tested in months — meaning booking space for your payload is just about as easy as booking a seat on a flight.
Running late? We can accept your payload mere days ahead of launch. Our innovative twin fuselage carrier aircraft was engineered to enable deployments of a range of launch vehicle shapes and weights. The innovative dual-fuselage and high-wing design allow launch vehicles to release from the aircraft centerline and below the wing for a much safer deployment.
The reinforced center wing provides lift, stability and pylons that can support multiple launch vehicles weighing overlbskgproviding access to any inclination for multiple payloads.
The wingspan is the largest of any plane ever assembled, stretching longer than an American football field, including the endzones. With a max load capacity of 1.
To support its weight, the Carrier is equipped with 28 wheels to evenly distribute the load. From tip to tip, its wingspan is over three times the length of the Wright Brothers' first flight. The Carrier is 50 feet tall from the ground to the top of its vertical tail. So tall, a humpback whale would have trouble seeing over it.Stratolaunch LLC is an American aerospace company providing high-speed flight test services.
It was originally formed in to develop a new air-launched space transportation system, with its corporate headquarters located in Seattle, Washington. The project originally had three primary components: a carrier aircraft being built by Scaled Composites called the Stratolauncha multi-stage payload launch vehicle which was to have been launched at high altitude into space from under the carrier aircraft, plus a mating and integration system by Dynetics.
Stratolaunch underwent a change of ownership and major change of direction in mid as the assets of the company were put up for sale by Vulcan, and some sources suggested that Stratolaunch could cease operations completely. The project was started inalmost a year before the public announcement was made.
Dynetics was cited as "responsible for the total systems engineering, integration and testing, which includes aerodynamics, loads, and interfaces". The collaboration with SpaceX ended by In a interview, former president Chuck Beames — explained, "SpaceX was a partner, and like a lot of partnerships, it was just determined that it was best we went our separate ways — different ambitions.
We were interested in their engines, but Elon and his team, they're about going to Mars, and we're just in a different place, and so I think it was a parting of the ways that was amicable". The carrier aircraft was originally projected to make its first test flight in By Octoberthe first flight of the carrier aircraft was pushed back until at the earliest, with the first flight of the air-launched rocket expected in at the earliest.
InStratolaunch announced that it was considering multiple launch vehicle options over a range of satellite sizes, and that some development work on the Orbital launch vehicle has been slowed down to focus on completion of the carrier aircraft. In Stratolaunch Systems was placed under the supervision of Paul Allen's new aerospace company Vulcan Aerospace,   a subsidiary of Vulcan, Inc.
Vulcan ended its contract with Orbital ATK in mid and indicated that a decision on a new rocket for the Stratolaunch Carrier Aircraft would be made in late InFast Company named the Stratolaunch one of the world's most innovative companies citing the air-launch system's size and ability to fly in inclement weather. In Maythe Stratolaunch was rolled out for the first time to begin fueling tests, the first of many ground tests.
In Decemberthe Stratolaunch was rolled out for the first taxi test on the runway at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California. In JanuaryStratolaunch announced it was halting development of its own air-launched family of launch vehicles. This followed the death of Stratolaunch founder Paul Allen in Octoberwho had been the source of funds for the capital intensive development program since its founding in On 31 May it was reported that the company would cease operations and that sale of its assets was being explored.
Stratolaunch began to rapidly reacquire staff in the fourth quarter ofgrowing from just 13 employees in October to 87 employees by mid-December. The company redirected its mission to providing high-speed flight test services. This would make it the largest airplane, by wingspan, ever to fly. For the next few years, we'll do all of our test flights out of Mojave There's already an air corridor that's established by the Air Force for this kind of stuff anyway, and we'll fly out over the Pacific".
In the event, the first Stratolaunch carrier aircraft was not towed out of the Stratolaunch Mojave building to start ground testing until Mayat which time the company suggested they were planning for a first "launch demonstration" in Over the course ofthe Stratolaunch carrier aircraft performed taxi tests of increasing speed at the Mojave airport. The first successful flight test was performed on Saturday, April 13, Originally SpaceX was intended to provide a liquid-fueled rocket to serve as the means of lifting the Stratolaunch payload delivery vehicle into space by launching it at high altitude from under the carrier aircraft, but collaboration with SpaceX was abandoned in late In NovemberStratolaunch retained Orbital ATK on a "study contract" to develop and evaluate "several alternative configurations" for the vehicle to be launched from the carrier aircraft.
In Mayit was announced that the Pegasus II solid-fuel rocket was not achieving design economic goals and that Stratolaunch had contracted with Aerojet Rocketdyne to build the RL10C-1 dual-motor liquid fuel engines for the launch vehicle. It was announced on September 13, that Stratolaunch had signed an agreement with NASA to providing testing services to support propulsion for a vehicle.