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Stratolaunch: The Next Evolution of Consumer Space Travel

From NYC Aviation

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By Stephanie Gehman

Founded by Paul G. Allen in 2011, Stratolaunch is the latest endeavor that aims to make space travel a possibility for consumers.  With an eye on Low Earth Orbit (LEO), Stratolaunch seeks to enable advancements in science, technology and research from space. Stratolaunch was designed by Burt Rutan and built by Scaled Composites.

The aircraft is the largest in the world, with a wider wingspan that that of Howard Hughes’ Spruce Goose.  The 6-engined Stratolaunch’s size and statistics are staggering, the official press release notes it has a, “…wingspan, measuring 385 ft. – by comparison, a professional football field spans only 360 ft. The aircraft is 238 ft. from nose to tail and stands 50 ft. tall from the ground to the top of the vertical tail.” The massive wingspan is nearly 50% wider than the Airbus A380.

The carrier craft is notably powered by 6 engines.  According to Wikipedia, “the carrier plane will be powered by six Pratt & Whitney PW4000, 205–296 kN (46,000–66,500 lbf) thrust-range jet engines, sourced from two used 747-400s that were cannibalized for engines, avionics, flight deck, landing gear and other proven systems to reduce initial development costs. The carrier is designed to have a range of 2,200 km (1,200 nmi) when flying an air launch mission.”

Stratolaunch reached a new milestone on May 31, 2017. Rolling out of the hangar, it exited the aircraft construction phase to begin the first steps in testing the new aircraft. First up will be testing of the fueling system. Enthusiasts were able to watch feeds from several news sources as the craft was revealed to the public.  

The plan for the coming months is many rounds of ground and flight testing. These tests will be based at Mojave Air & Space Port, Stratolaunch’s home airport.  The ultimate goal of testing is to ensure the safety of crew and future passengers. Stratolaunch Systems Corporation’s goal is to send their first launch into LEO in 2019.

Image courtesy Stratolaunch Systems Corp

 

 

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Comments (1)

  1. Mark

Just looking at this beast for the first time, I'm puzzled by the lack of a secondary "brace" between the fuselage structures. As it appears now, it would seem to have the potential of twisting or snapping that center wing.

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