A year ago this month, at the inaugural Composites & Advanced Materials Expo (CAMX) event in Orlando, FL, US), Scaled Composites’ (Mojave, CA, US) affable president Kevin Mickey spoke on a range of fascinating subjects, one of which was the massive Stratolaunch aircraft project his company is involved in, funded by billionaire Paul Allen in collaboration with Scaled Composites’ founder Burt Rutan. In a recent Aviation Week & Space Technology magazine (Aug. 3-16, 2015), a story by Guy Norris and Amy Butler reviews progress on the massive air launch system.
The carbon composite Stratolaunch carrier vehicle is under development by Scaled Composites, and the launch vehi- cle it will carry is in progress at Vulcan Aerospace Corp. (Seattle, WA, US, the space-focused business of Vulcan Inc., which holds Paul Allen’s assets). The massive carrier vehicle has six jet engines and a 118.5m wingspan and is designed to carry a rocket-powered orbital vehicle with payload, weighing up to 6,136 kg, to a launch altitude of around 10,800m, where the vehicle is released for self-propelled flight into low-Earth orbit.
The carrier-vehicle concept can save considerable fuel and launch costs entailed in a conventional vertical launch vehicle take-off and, according to Vulcan Aerospace, the concept “decouples launch service from its dependence on traditional ground launch ranges” by providing the flexibility of launching from many different locations, thus optimizing orbits.
Rollout is expected in early 2016. Watch a YouTube video of the Stratolaunch concept here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=YgJFKUiuDBE.