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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.