Burt Rutan, Elon Musk, and Paul Allen Assemble Giant Stratolaunch
The plane would be capable of flying up to 1,300 nautical miles to reach its launch point. SpaceX would provide a shortened version of its Falcon 9 rocket for the next phase of Stratolaunch's route to orbit. Wentz described it as a "Falcon 4 or 5." The multistage booster would be attached to the plane using a mating and integration system developed by Dynetics, and released during the mothership's flight at high altitude. After release, the 490,000-pound rocket would light up to send commercial and government payloads weighing up to 13,500 pounds into low Earth orbit. _Alan Boyle
Seven years after winning the $10 million Ansari X Prize, software billionaire Paul Allen and aerospace guru Burt Rutan are teaming up with SpaceX and other top-flight rocketeers to create an air-launched orbital delivery system. They say the venture will require the construction of the largest aircraft ever flown.
Allen unveiled his new company, Stratolaunch Systems, at a Seattle news conference today. It marks his first space venture since the partnership with Rutan to build the prize-winning SpaceShipOne rocket plane, which became the first privately developed craft to reach outer space in 2004.
...Allen agreed that his latest venture won't come cheap. He said he'll spend "at least an order of magnitude more than I put into SpaceShipOne." Allen's investment in SpaceShipOne was estimated at $25 to $30 million, which suggests he's prepared to put at least $250 million to $300 million into Stratolaunch. _CosmicLog
This is one of the unconventional types of space launch systems that Al Fin and his friends talked about as young boys. It allows for a wide range of orbital insertions not available to a single ground launch site. And by making a significant part of the launch system completely re-usable, it should help reduce launch costs.
It never made sense that Paul Allen would simply walk away from the private space scene after his successful partnership with Rutan won the space X Prize. The new partnership involving Elon Musk's SpaceX is something of a surprise, however, and a good omen for private space enterprise.
The ship will be built at the Mojave Spaceport, New Mexico, while the rockets will be built by SpaceX in Hawthorne, California. The integration—which includes the mating system—will be built by Dynetics Space Systems in Huntsville, Alabama.
What cargo will it launch?
Initially, they will launch cargo to orbit, but not to the International Space Station. In the future, the system may launch human crews up to six people. At this point, however, they haven't decided to do this yet. _Gizmodo
h/t Next Big Future More here
More: Coverage of the press conference from Hobby Space Be sure to glance through the comments.