Stratolaunch ready to operate largest craft-launcher in world
Stratolaunch, an air transportation venture, is ready to launch its two taxi air craft. The flagship airplane of the company is the world’s largest plane as well as the largest composite plane ever built. The primary feature of this craft is its ability to take an airport-style approach to operations for launch services. It can air launch a maximum payload of more than 500,000 lbs. or 250 tons.
This composite air-craft has the special capability to delivery to multiple orbits and inclinations in a single flight. Thus, it will reduce cost significantly while doing away with unforeseen issues like delays or cancellation. It has an operational range of 2,000 nautical miles.
The new aircraft runs on six Boeing 747 engines. It’s first flight is expected by the end of summer this year. So far, two tests are conducted at Mojave Air and Space Port in California. In its recent test, the craft reached the speed of 74 kilometers per hour. The craft is expected to fly at the speed of 130 kilometers per hour, and eventually 220 kilometer an hour. If the speed milestones are achieved, the company might launch the carrier commercially by end of this decade. Per reports, the previous tests were “highly successful”.
Founded in 2011 by Paul G. Allen, Stratolaunch is breaking into the space avionics industry as a convenient and reliable commercial service. Several tech giants, including Elon Musk, Jeff Bejos and Richard Branson are on the race. The company is planning to use Pegasus XL rockets from Orbital ATK. The crafts will use single Pegasus rocket in initial stage but plans to use up to three rockets. The company also signed a Space Act Agreement with NASA’s Stennis Space Center. Under this agreement, it will support propulsion, vehicle, and ground support system development and testing activities.
As disclosed, commercial operations of Stratolaunch will comprise of only a single mission per week. It plans to operate from Mojave Air and Space Port. Also, the craft will carry only one launch vehicle at a time. The release will occur at the height of approximately 35,000 feet.