Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft, billionaire, and namesake of the Allen Telescop, and Burt Rutan, aerospace pioneer, on Tuesday announced a new private spaceflight venture called Stratolaunch that aims to lower the cost of LEO delivery.
The method they plan on using is akin to the Virgin White Knight and SpaceShipTwo combo; essentially a carrier craft that will deliver a rocket into high altitude and blast off from there.
The carrier craft itself is huge, it’s wingspan a staggering 385 feet, 25% longer than a football field. The huge craft will be powered with six 747 jet engines. The runway it self needs to be 12,000 feet in length, just to take off.
This type of airborne launch system will help make commercial launches safer, more flexible, efficient and affordable, Allen said.
“By the end of this decade, Stratolaunch will be putting spacecraft into orbit,” Allen said.
Ambitious to say the least. No costs were shared and other detailed were not given. However, the multistage rocket that the carrier will deliver into orbit will be built by SpaceX, which has close ties to NASA.
It has been reported that Paul Allen has invested more than $20 million towards this project. Paul Allen is a huge supporter and contributor to space initiatives as evidenced to the SETI Institute’s Allen Telescope Array at Hat Creek Observatory being named after him.