Mojave Moments: What Really Keeps the Spaceport in Operation

What is it that keeps the Mojave Air and Space Port operating?

Is it Richard Branson’s SpaceShipTwo? Paul Allen’s monster rocket launching airplane they call Birdzilla? Mojave’s amazing amenities and it warm, welcoming atmosphere that lead people to call it the Mayberry of the West?

Uhhh….no. Not even close.

It’s the last thing one would expect in conservative, oil-rich, get government off our back and let us do our own thing Kern County, the Texas of California.

Stratolaunch is 40 Percent Complete

The new design of Stratolaunch's carrier aircraft. (Credit: Stratolaunch Systems)
The new design of Stratolaunch’s carrier aircraft. (Credit: Stratolaunch Systems)

The Seattle Seahawks may have lost the Super Bowl because of an idiotic call on the goal line in the waning seconds, but billionaire owner Paul Allen can take comfort in two things:

He still has billions of dollars. And Birdzilla.

Speaking of which, Stratolaunch System’s giant carrier aircraft is 40 percent complete:

Scaled Composites President Kevin Mickey confirmed the progress in an email Tuesday from that company’s headquarters in Mojave, Calif., where the aircraft is being built….

The wings and fuselage of the 1.3 million-pound Stratolaunch will be new, and about 80 percent of the assemblies are complete, Mickey said….

Progress on the aircraft seems so far to be steady. The first flight is still scheduled for 2016, the same date the company earlier indicated.

If that remains the case, the aircraft is supposed to finish certification flights and launch its first space craft by 2018.

Read the full story.

More Details on Dream Chaser – Stratolaunch Launch Concept

The new design of Stratolaunch's carrier aircraft. (Credit: Stratolaunch Systems)
The new design of Stratolaunch’s carrier aircraft. (Credit: Stratolaunch Systems)

Sierra Nevada Corporation’s Mark Sirangelo Craig Gravelle joined Chuck Beames of Vulcan Aerospace this morning at the International Aeronautical Conference in Toronto to discuss a plan to launch s downsized Dream Chaser via Stratolaunch Systems. (Vulcan Aerospace is owned by Paul Allen, who is financing Stratolaunch).

Jeff Foust (‏@jeff_foust) and Stephen Clark (@StephenClark1) attended the talk. Here is a summary of their Tweets.

  • Dream Chaser variant is about the size of the Apollo spacecraft
  • Vehicle could carry 2-3 astronauts into LEO for visits to the International Space Station and other missions
  • Dream Chaser can be automated to carry cargo
  • No decision has been made to proceed with the plan, still weighing how to move forward
  • SNC not prepared to discuss propulsion systems for Dream Chaser
  • Considered using Stratolaunch to send Drream Chaser on suborbital flights, including point-to-point missions
  • Stratolaunch carrier aircraft now half built at Mojave Air and Spaceport
  • Targeting 2018 for first launch of basic Stratolaunch aircraft and launch vehicle.

Witt: 2014 Going to be a Great Year in Mojave

Mojave Air and Space Port CEO Stu Witt (Credit: Bill Deaver)
Mojave Air and Space Port CEO Stu Witt (Credit: Bill Deaver)

Mojave Air & Space Port New Year’s Greeting
By Stuart O. Witt

Happy New Year!

On January 1, 1914 America entered the commercial air service arena with a flight that lasted just a few minutes and carried one passenger sitting on a wood seat across a short distance in south Florida. Today millions of passengers will board commercial aircraft and statistically all will reach their destination safely, in large part because of the robust industry in which we are a central participant.

Things occurred in the first 100 years of commercial air travel that no one could have predicted 100, 80 or even 70 years ago. If you asked anyone in 1925, “Within the next 70 years will people board a pressurized aircraft powered by jet engines and be fed steak and lobster, watch the latest movies or television while talking via telephone to their home or office?” they would have laughed in your face. But it did happen and the quality of life for all people has grown exponentially with our industry.


ATK Gets Contract for Stratolaunch Propulsion System

ARLINGTON, Va., Aug. 13, 2013 (ATK PR) —
ATK (NYSE: ATK) has received a contract from Orbital Sciences Corporation (NYSE: ORB) to provide first and second stage propulsion for the Air Launch Vehicle (ALV) that Orbital is designing and building for Stratolaunch Systems Corporation as part of a revolutionary air-launched space transportation system. The contract from Orbital includes the design, development and flight hardware for initial Stratolaunch missions.


Stratolaunch Opens Mojave Hangar


MOJAVE, CALIF., March 27, 2013 (Stratolaunch PR) – Stratolaunch Systems today opened a new hangar that will eventually house the world’s largest aircraft during the assembly and testing stages, the aerospace development company announced.

The hangar opening brings Stratolaunch Systems one step closer to its goal of delivering a breakthrough air-launch system that provides safe, flexible, and affordable orbital access to space.

The 103,257-square-foot hangar is one of the two Stratolaunch facilities built at Mojave Air and Space Port to accommodate construction of the system’s carrier aircraft. The other Mojave facility, a 88,000-square-foot fabrication facility, opened in October 2012 and is currently used to manufacture the aircraft’s wing and fuselage sections. Both facilities were constructed by Bakersfield, Calif.-based Wallace and Smith General Contractors.

The carrier aircraft, developed by Stratolaunch partner Scaled Composites, will take off like a conventional plane before releasing the system’s rocket which will launch medium class payload to orbit. As the largest aircraft ever constructed, it will use six 747 engines, weigh more than 1.3 million pounds, and have a wingspan of more than 380 feet.

“Stratolaunch has made significant progress over the past year and a half, and the new hangar allows us to keep that momentum going so that we can hit our first test flight in 2016,” said Gary Wentz, CEO and President of Stratolaunch Systems.

Stratolaunch Systems, founded in 2011 by philanthropist and entrepreneur Paul G. Allen, is based in Huntsville, Alabama.

A Birdzilla’s Eye View of the Stratolaunch Hangar Under Construction

A bird’s eye view of the Stratolauch hangar at the Mojave Air and Space Port. (Credit: Google Maps)

Google Maps’ updated view of the Mojave Air and Space Port shows the Stratolaunch hangar under development (above). This image, taken some time ago, shows the roof being placed on the back end of the building (left) with beams for the front end’s walls already raised in place (right). Today, the rear roof has been completed.  At the front of the building, the roof structure and parts of the exterior walls are now in place.

The Stratolaunch production facility (left) and its hangar. (Credit: Google Maps)

The image above shows Stratolaunch’s 88,000-square-foot production facility (left) and the unfinished hangar. The manufacturing facility was completed about three weeks ago and is now occupied by employees.