Problems at Stratolaunch

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In the heat of competition: Stratolaunch and Orbital ATK have quietly parted ways as problems have developed in building Stratolaunch’s giant first stage aircraft.

The company went with a radical engineering idea — using a giant airplane as their first stage — which might turn out great but could just as easily become a disaster and failure. Such ideas are by their nature filled with many unknowns.

In a sense, this story validates SpaceX’s approach to developing new space technology, which is to take known engineering and to upgrade it while refining the production methods for building it to lower costs. With this approach, you lower risks by reducing the number of unknowns you have to deal with.


  • wodun

    It seems that this particular launch system faces some major challenges the larger the rocket is supposed to be. It takes a lot of effort and engineering just to get one to stand up in one place much less be attached to the underside of an airplane.

  • pzatchok

    Putting it under the aircraft severely limits its potential size both in diameter and length. And also in its eventual shape. the whole thing has to be flat enough to slide under the carrier.

    Placing it on top of the plane pretty much removes most of those restrictions. But now you need a pretty big crane to lift it onto the plane and at that point its limited to only one launch location.

    And this lift craft has soon serious design problems. Anyone ever see a B52 fully loaded and fueled take off?

    The thing literally looks like the wings are flapping to helping take of like a bird.
    Does anyone actually think they can stiffen up the whole of this craft to stop that from happening? because if it does ‘flap’ then that fragile carbon fiber that hates to be flexed will more than likely start to crack and fail.
    Sort of like the last twin boom carrier vehicle that they have actually flown far less than its planned service life.

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