Stratolaunch to make first flight later this year


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Capitalism in space: Paul Allen said at a space conference today that Stratolaunch will likely make its maiden flight later this year.

Actual satellite launches will have to wait until around 2020, however, as the giant plane will first have to be certified by the FAA, a process expected to take one and a half to two years.

The profitability of this launch system at the moment remains an unknown. The only rocket presently set to launch on Stratolaunch is Orbital ATK’s Pegasus, which is designed to launch small to mid-size satellites. Stratolaunch will therefore have to compete with the slew of new smallsat rocket companies that should be becoming operational in the next two years. It will be interesting to see if this air-launched system will be able to compete with them.

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One comment

  • m d mill

    The stratolaunch was originally designed to launch the “thunderbolt ” rocket…which would have put true mid size sats into orbit. This would have been a big deal since this approach allows you to essentially eliminate the first stage (roughly speaking). But the design of the thunderbolt (or equivalent) was scraped inexplicably. The Pegasus rocket can already be launched from modified (cheaper) traditional aircraft; so what is the point of stratolaunch now? Maybe the thunderbolt will come later….?

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