Video of Stratolaunch’s Maiden Flight

Video Caption: In partnership with Scaled Composites, Stratolaunch successfully completed the first flight of the Stratolaunch aircraft. As part of this initial flight of the world’s largest aircraft, the pilots evaluated aircraft performance and handling qualities of the all-composite, dual-fuselage design.

The airplane took off at 0658 PDT on April 13, 2019, from the Mojave Air & Space Port, and flew for 2.5 hours, achieving a maximum speed of 189 miles per hour and reaching altitudes of up to 17,000 feet. The plane landed safely amid cheers from the team that designed and built the plane.

Layoffs at Virgin Galactic & The Spaceship Company

WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo take off at 7:11 a.m. PST from the Mojave Air and Space Port. (Credit: Kenneth Brown)

NMPolitics.net is reporting that there were about 40 layoffs from Virgin Galactic and The Spaceship Company earlier this month as they prepare to begin commercial flights from Spaceport America in New Mexico.

A Virgin Galactic spokesman confirmed the layoffs in a statement via email.

Recently we separated a small number of our team in order to position our organization for the drive to commercial operations following our successful recent spaceflight, and make room for new skill sets that we need to bring in over the course of this year.  In total we separated around 40 people, less than 5% of our total workforce across Virgin Galactic and TSC. We are offering support to those impacted and sincerely thank them for their contributions, and wish them well for the future.

The news comes on the heels of a decision by SpaceX to lay off about 10 percent of its roughly 6,000 employees. Stratolaunch, which like Virgin Galactic is based in Mojave, announced last week that it was laying off about 50 employees as it down scaled plans for boosters to air launch from its massive aircraft.

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Stratolaunch Hits 136 MPH in Taxi Test, Pops a Wheelie

Stratolaunch carrier aircraft lifts front landing gear off runway in high-speed taxi test. (Credit: Stratolaunch)

Stratolaunch continued high-speed taxi tests at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California on Wednesday. The company tweeted that the aircraft reached a speed of 136 mph (219 kph or 60.8 m/s) and lifted the front landing gear off runway 12-30.

Stratolaunch aircraft at the Mojave Air and Space Port. (Credit: Scaled Composites)

Word in Mojave has it that taxi and flight tests have been delayed over the past month due to weather. If the aircraft had to divert from Mojave, it would land on the lake bed at nearby Edwards Air Force Base. The lake bed has been soaked by rain.

Potentially Historic Flights Loom in Mojave

View of SpaceShipTwo Unity from the tail boom. (Credit: Virgin Galactic)

It looks as if things could get very busy here at the Mojave Air and Space Port in the coming weeks with a possible pair of historic milestone flights.

Sir Richard Branson has said he expects SpaceShipTwo Unity to make a flight into space before Christmas, which is just over two weeks away. Sources say a flight is highly likely barring technical or weather delays.

Parabolic Arc has also heard that Stratolaunch could attempt the historic first flight of its massive carrier aircraft before the new year.
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Paul Allen Passes Away From Cancer at 65

Paul G. Allen (By Miles Harris – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=26491255)

Microsoft co-founder Paul G. Allen — who funded private spaceships, one of the largest aircraft in the world, and the search for life elsewhere in the Universe – has died of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He was 65.

“It is with deep sadness that we announce the death of @PaulGAllen, our founder and noted technologist, philanthropist, community builder, conservationist, musician and supporter of the arts, All of us who worked with Paul feel an inexpressible loss today,” Allen’s company, Vulcan, Inc., announced in a tweet.

Allen poured the billions he made from Microsoft into a number of business and philanthropic ventures, including three space projects. He spent $28 million to back Burt Rutan’s entry in the Ansari X Prize, a $10 million competition for the first privately-built crewed vehicle to reach space twice within a two-week period.

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NanoRacks Announces Industry Team Supporting NASA LEO Commercialization Proposal

BREMEN, Germany, October 2, 2018 (NanoRacks PR) — In August 2018, NanoRacks was one of 13 companies selected by NASA to study the future of commercial human spaceflight in low-Earth orbit, including long-range opportunities for the International Space Station.

Today, NanoRacks is pleased to share the expansive industry team that the Company will be working with to complete this study and show the viability of commercial habitats (“Outposts”) in low-Earth orbit and the future of International Space Station commercial utilization.
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A Look at Stratolaunch’s New Rocket Engine

Air-launched boosters (Credit: Stratolaunch)

Aviation Week has a photo gallery detailing the PGA engine developed to power the rockets that will air launched from Stratolaunch’s massive carrier aircraft. The engine’s details include:

  • fuel-rich, staged-combustion liquid oxygen and hydrogen engine capable of generating 200,000 lb. of thrust
  • three cores with single PGA engine each will power medium launch vehicle
  • fully reusable Black Ice space plane powered by three PGAs; and,
  • engine testing to begin at NASA Stennis in October.

Stratolaunch Aircraft Taxis at Mojave

The Stratolaunch carrier aircraft on runway 12-30 at the Mojave Air and Space Port during a taxi test on Friday. (Credit: Kenneth Brown)

Stratolaunch’s massive carrier aircraft performed a taxi test down runway 12-30 at the Mojave Air and Space Port on Friday afternoon.

The airplane, which is designed to air-launch rockets, appeared to make several short moves at the southeast end of the runway before beginning its taxi test. It stopped twice during the taxi test before arriving at the end of the runway.

The twin-fuselage plane veered to one side on several occasions during the test, resulting in the pilots correcting the vehicle’s path. It was not clear whether this movement was part of the test.

The aircraft, which has a wingspan of 385 ft (117.3 m), was towed backwards along the runway before being returned to its hangar.

Scaled Composites built the aircraft with funding from Microsoft billionaire Paul Allen.

Stratolaunch Announces New Launch Vehicles

Air-launched boosters (Credit: Stratolaunch)

SEATTLE, Wash. – August 20, 2018 (Stratolaunch PR) – Stratolaunch announces today its new family of launch vehicles that will enter regular service starting in 2020. The company’s unique air-launch system will use the world’s largest aircraft as a mobile launch platform, capable of deploying launch vehicles that will carry satellites to multiple orbits and inclinations on a single mission. With these new vehicles, Stratolaunch is poised to make access to space convenient, affordable, and routine.

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Stratolaunch Aircraft Strolls Outside for a Little California Sun

Stratolaunch aircraft rolls out of its hangar in Mojave, Calif. (Credit: Stratolaunch)

Stratolaunch emerged from its hangar over the weekend to soak up some California sun. Engineers took the giant, twin fuselage carrier aircraft outside for some tests.

Stratolaunch carrier aircraft has a wingspan of 385 ft. (Credit: Stratolaunch)

The announced plan was to conduct some taxi tests on Runway 12/30. The plane didn’t make it that far. Engineers put the airplane through a series of fueling, fueling, full-power engine and communication tests.

Stratolaunch carrier aircraft outside for tests. (Credit: Stratolaunch)

The aircraft will begin by launching Pegasus XL boosters, which are produced by Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems.

Stratolaunch carrier plane is a dual fuselage aircraft. (Credit: Stratolaunch)

The company is also working on a medium launcher that expected to debut in 2021. There are not a lot of details about the project, which is under the direction of Vice President of Propulsion Jeff Thornburg.

Stratolaunch aircraft outside for testing. (Credit: Stratolaunch)

I caught a glimpse of the aircraft from Highway 14 during my return from the Small Satellite Conference in Utah. I was probably five miles away at the time, but the thing still looked massive sitting there next to the hangar.

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.