SpaceX Out, Orbital In on Stratolaunch Project


Flight Global 
reports that SpaceX has dropped out of Paul Allen’s Stratolaunch program with Orbital Sciences Corporation of Virginia, which files the air-launched Pegasus booster, taking over on the booster segment.

“Stratolaunch and SpaceX have amicably agreed to end our contractual relationship because the current launch vehicle design has departed significantly from the Falcon derivative vehicle envisioned by SpaceX and does not fit well with their long-term strategic business model,” says Gary Wentz, Stratolaunch CEO, in a 27 November email.

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Mojave Air and Space Port 2012 Video

Mojave Air & Space Port 2012

On the western edge of the Mojave desert in Kern County, California, there is a place like nowhere else on Earth. In the skies over Mojave airport the first private enterprise space ship showed the world that a small, talented team could put a man into space.

Amazing things happen here.

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.

Stratolaunch Opens Production Facility in Mojave

The interior of the Stratolaunch production facility in Mojave. (Credit: Stratolaunch)

MOJAVE, CALIF. (Stratolaunch PR) — The Stratolaunch Systems Corporation, a Paul G. Allen project, announced the opening of their production facility at the Mojave Air and Space Port.

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Space Goose’s Nest Grows in the Mojave

The Stratolaunch hangar continues to take shape at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California. With the rear of the hangar assembled, beams are being put up for the front section which must be wide enough to accommodate a plane with a 385-foot wingspan.

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Exclusive Photos: Birdzilla’s Nest Takes Shape in the Mojave

The large Stratolaunch hangar under construction on Aug. 23, 2012. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

Stratolaunch’s second hangar has been taking shape on the east side of the Mojave Air and Space Port. The massive structure needs to be large enough to house an aircraft with a wingspan of 385 feet (117 meters).

As walls are attached to part of Stratolaunch’s hangar, a frame is being put up for the other section of the structure. Credit: Douglas Messier

In these photos, we can see the frame of part of the hangar with walls being attached. Two other sections of the frame have been put up that are much further apart, making the hangar wide enough to accommodate the great width of the aircraft.

Stratolaunch’s two hangars at the Mojave Air and Space Port on Aug. 23, 2012. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

The image above shows both of Stratolaunch’s hangars at the spaceport. The building on the left is now being internally fitted out.

Stratolaunch Progress Report in Photos

A Boeing 747-422 is being stripped for parts for the Stratolaunch project. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

The Stratolaunch project is moving along at the Mojave Air and Space Port. Two 747-422s are being stripped for parts to build the mammoth rocket launching platform, which will be the biggest aircraft in the world.

An engine has been removed from the 747 for use in the Stratolaunch aircraft, which will have six engines. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

Meanwhile, the first of two hangars is nearing completion at the other end of the spaceport.

The first Stratolaunch hangar nearing completion on May 17, 2012. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

And, as an added bonus, here’s a picture of the one of the critters who makes its home in the desert.

What I believe is a zebra lizard showing off its ability to walk on the side of a building. Spider-man ain't got nothing on this thing. (Credit: Douglas Messier)

Pictures from Plane Soggy Saturday


By Douglas Messier
Parabolic Arc Managing Editor

The monthly Plane Crazy Saturday open house at the Mojave Air and Space Port took place under decidedly soggy skies today. (Much like the one last month; ah, winter in Mojave! Damn you, Pacific storms!)

The tarmac was filled largely with military planes and one very large jumbo jet that wasn’t part of the show. The United Airlines 747-422 in the distance is the second aircraft destined for use as part of Stratolaunch’s air-launch system. The 495-seat aircraft, which was manufactured in 1997, arrived on Thursday. The other 747 is now sitting in front of the BAE Systems hangar at the other end of the taxiway.

More photos from Plane Soggy Saturday after the break. (more…)

Need a Job? They’re Hiring in Mojave

By Douglas Messier
Parabolic Arc Managing Editor

There are several hundred open positions in Mojave as companies such as the Spaceship Company, XCOR and Scaled Composites begin to ramp up operations.

“It’s ironic that we’re having a recruitment problem in Mojave,” said Stu Witt, CEO and general manager of the Mojave Air and Space Port. He added that this is a good problem to have.

The Spaceship Company, which is building WhiteKnightTwos and SpaceShipTwos for Virgin Galactic, has engineering and production positions open. The company is holding a jobs fair in Wichita, Kansas, on March 14 to recruit prospective employees there.

Scaled Composites has 11 positions featured on its website, including aerodynamicist, composite fabricator, manufacturing engineer, and purchasing manager.

XCOR is staffed up on the engineering side but is looking to build out its business operations. The company is seeking a director of retail sales and channel operations to oversee sales to individual passengers and organizations that want to fly experiments on the suborbital Lynx vehicle.

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Stratolaunch Accepts First 747 for New Launch Aircraft

A retired United Airlines 747 in front of the Scaled Composites hangar in Mojave. (Credit: Stratolaunch Systems)

HUNTSVILLE, AL, February 15, 2012 (Stratolaunch PR) – Today Stratolaunch systems closed on purchase of the first of two Boeing 747-400 aircraft that are being purchased from United Airlines.

Stratolaunch contractor Scaled Composites of Mojave California with support from their subcontractor BAE Systems has developed a complete plan for how the engines, landing gear, hydraulics and other subsystem components of these aircraft will be disassembled and reintegrated into a custom composite aircraft to be built by Scaled Composites in Stratolaunch’s new integration facility being built at the Mojave Air and Space Port.

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Mojave Becoming Aerospace Epicenter

Dave Masten, left, and his crew continue working on the Xaero Rocket in the warehouse of Masten Space Systems at the Mojave Air & Space Port. Masten was on the cover of Aviation Week after winning a million dollar prize for his endeavors in the space field. (Casey Christie/The Californian)
BY STEVEN MAYER
Californian staff writer

MOJAVE AIR & SPACE PORT — Aerospace types love this rural desert location for its clear, dry weather, its sparse population and its comfortable distance from major news outlets.

But Dave Masten, CEO of Masten Space Systems, says there’s another reason his company stays in Mojave.

“The neighbors don’t complain,” Masten says with a grin.

“Even if you’re testing a rocket engine,” he says. “And rocket tests can be very loud.”

Long known as a place where space cowboys and scientist-entrepreneurs could carve out a niche in the specialized world of aviation and aerospace, Mojave Air & Space Port has grown — some might say grown up — in recent years to include ambitious, well-funded companies that are expected to deliver on the promise that the sky is no longer the limit when it comes to private space flight.

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Stratolaunch Breaks Ground on Mojave Production Facility

Ground breaking of the production facilities and hangar at the Mojave Air and Space Port. (Credit: Stratolaunch Systems)

STRATOLAUNCH PR — HUNTSVILLE, AL, January 20, 2012 — Stratolaunch Systems announced today the ground breaking on a production facility and hangar at the Mojave Air and Space Port. Stratolaunch Systems, founded by Paul G. Allen, is a private aerospace development company that will construct a one-of-a-kind composite aircraft for launching medium class payloads to space.

The construction of these facilities will be performed by the Bakersfield-based Wallace and Smith General Contractors. The fabrication facility, an 88,000 square foot building, will be used to manufacture the carrier aircraft wing assemblies and associated parts for the new aircraft. The fabrication facility is projected to be completed in late 2012. The aircraft hangar, a 92,640 square foot building, will serve as the aircraft assembly and test facility and will encompass 20,250 square foot of office space. The hangar facility has a projected completion of mid 2013.

Gary Wentz, CEO and President of Stratolaunch Systems was quoted: “Today marks the start of an exciting journey for us. Over the next year, we will have a visible presence in the Antelope Valley with two new facilities and a pair of 747-400 aircraft which will undergo salvage to supply parts and subsystems for integration into our carrier aircraft. We look forward to many years of great work in Mojave.”

Dynetics to Provide Technical Integration and Mating System for Stratolaunch

Stratolaunch vehicle. (Credit: Stratolaunch)

DYNETICS PR — HUNTSVILLE, Ala., Dec. 13, 2011 – Stratolaunch Systems has selected Dynetics to provide overall technical integration and the mating and integration system hardware for a revolutionary air launch system. The system is being designed as a responsive, affordable system to deliver cargo and humans to space. This program will establish Huntsville as a leader in the commercial space launch business, according to Dynetics officials.

“This air launch system will be a game changer in the space launch industry,” said David King, executive vice president of Dynetics. “We will play a vital role in the development of this system, which will have a major strategic impact on the future of spaceflight in Huntsville and the United States.”

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Rutan, Musk and Allen Team Up on New Air Launched Rocket System

STRATOLAUNCH PR – SEATTLE, WA, Dec 13, 2011 – Entrepreneur and philanthropist Paul G. Allen announced today that he and aerospace pioneer Burt Rutan have reunited to develop the next generation of space travel. Allen and Rutan, whose SpaceShipOne was the first privately-funded, manned rocket ship to fly beyond earth’s atmosphere, are developing a revolutionary approach to space transportation: an air-launch system to provide orbital access to space with greater safety, cost-effectiveness and flexibility.

The space flight revolution Allen and Rutan pioneered in 2004 with SpaceShipOne now enters a new era. Only months after the last shuttle flight closed an important chapter in spaceflight, Allen is stepping in with an ambitious effort to continue America’s drive for space.

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