Aim High

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Stratolaunch

Sure, it may sound weird when you first hear about an aircraft launching a rocket into space, but the concept has been around for a long time.  F-15’s have successfully shot down satellites in test situations by launching ASAT missiles.
Stratolauncher is the largest aircraft in the world and so far, all its done is taxi down a runway in the Mojave Desert where such things are tested.
The booster is slung between the two fuselages and the aircraft takes it into the stratosphere and kicks it loose. Presumably it reaches orbit from there, and the aircraft returns to Earth – fully reusable. 
concept picture
Barack Obama made one of NASA’s key missions making Muslims feel good about themselves and as with many things that happened during the years of Obamanation, it flopped. ISIS was not impressed. 
At the same time, entrepreneurs in the US have taken up the gauntlet and seem to be making launches profitable for them and less expensive than the old government programs were. No surprise there.
Our friend and fellow blogger, DRJIM worked for a different commercial space venture for a while. He can explain his feelings on the matter if he’s inclined

I have no idea whether or not this will work. I don’t know if the aircraft will ever fly. However, I can’t help but think that efforts like this one (whether or not this works) will be our eventual way back into space – the Space Force notwithstanding. Government is unreliable. You get the wrong person in office and rather than aiming high, tax money is diverted to buy votes.
Paul Allen (born January 21, 1953) co-founded Microsoft alongside Bill Gates. In August 2018, he was estimated to be the 46th-richest person in the world, with an estimated net worth of $20.2 billion. He spends a lot of his money on projects like this one. If I had that kind of scratch, I might do the same. I mean, why not?  

20 thoughts on “Aim High

  1. It's been said that Burt Rutan, who lives in Coeur d'Alene now, did some of the designing of this aircraft. Haven't verified that info. Some of the members of my history club are working with Burt on the building of a new museum here and mentioned that at our last meeting.

  2. Neat looking gigantic plane and I imagine it'll be a handy asset for the Space Force, if it flies.

    Ad Astra.

  3. I've been watching that story line, too. I think the plane will fly and I think they'll be able to launch boosters. The only real question is whether they can get launch costs down far enough to make it profitable and really impact the launch market.

    SpaceX is driving a lot of the other companies out of the market with reusable boosters. There's a bunch of new startups trying to catch up and grab their piece of the market, too.

  4. I think that he's one of the founders of Scaled Composites, the company that constructed the aircraft.

  5. Like you said, concept goes back a long time. Don't forget the X1 and the X15's.

    Concept looks solid and furthermore without government running it has to be much cheaper. The real question is will it actually be cost effective even without Gov running it

  6. And deep pockets – that really helps. I don't know that Paul Allen plans to make a huge fortune from this, but the willingness to risk is the very essence of America.

  7. When the DLC trades in its horses for spacecraft, you'll need one based at the Hillsboro airport.

  8. It's a Darwinian process. The fit survive, those unfit, end up at Davis Monthan Air Force Base.

  9. They seem to think that they'll capture a niche market without the risks associated with that first stage that often has difficulties (blows up on the pad).

  10. Great point on the first stage.
    Also, has to be greatly cheaper as not needing tons and tons of liquid oxygen, fuel and the huge tanks

  11. Burt was THE founder of Scaled Composites. He's an interesting man, and I saw him speak at a convention somewhere.

  12. Yes, that's always a worry. I don't know if they had the financial commitment to build more than one. Then again, when you're using your own money, you can't go hawg wild.

  13. The method of air-dropping a Launch Vehicle (LV) is well proven. Many of the "X-Planes" were launched this way, as well as the Pegasus LV (Lockheed L-1011 Carrier) and Rutan's "SpaceShipOne".

    Since they decided against using the Pegasus II LV, it's open right now as to what LV they'll go with.

  14. I haven't read anything about what they're planning on using for an LV. The Pegasus II was deemed "not economically viable" for some reason.

  15. All this is, is an update on the old B-29 and B-52s launching rockets. It will work, assuming a valid launch vehicle is found, as Jim says.

  16. They are looking at a variety of newer launch vehicles, including a 'space plane' that looks kinda like a manned X-37/DynaSoar mix.

    Reading up on the Pegasus II, the cost of the vehicle was skyrocketing out of control.

    The aim in the search for new launch vehicles is to bring the operating cost of the Stratolauncher and the launch vehicle to be on-par or less than SpaceX. As it was with the Pegasus, they were approaching ULA costs.

  17. They will build more if and only if they are able to become financially successful. Whether it will be the 6 engine monstrosity, or a smaller version depending on the needs, we'll just have to wait and see.

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