Stratolaunch is Back in Business Under Unknown Ownership

Stratolaunch flies over Mojave. (Credit: Stratolaunch)

MOJAVE, Calif. (Stratolaunch PR) — Stratolaunch LLC has transitioned ownership and is continuing regular operations.  Our near-term launch vehicle development strategy focuses on providing customizable, reusable, and affordable rocket-powered testbed vehicles and associated flight services. 

As we continue on our mission, Stratolaunch will bring the carrier aircraft test and operations program fully in-house.  We thank Vulcan Inc and Scaled Composites for turning an ambitious idea into a flight-proven aircraft.

For more information, please visit www.stratolaunch.com/news-and-features. Please also follow @Stratolaunch on Twitter for the latest updates.

UPDATE: And there’s this press release from Scaled Composites:

Scaled is pleased to announce the transfer of the Stratolaunch Aircraft to Stratolaunch Corporation. Scaled was contracted in 2011 by Stratolaunch to design, build, and test the world’s largest aircraft by wingspan. Having accomplished these goals successfully, the Scaled team has transitioned the vehicle and associated knowledge to the Stratolaunch team. Scaled wishes Stratolaunch success as it continues work towards commercial operation of its launch system.

Test Pilot Wins Kincheloe Award for Stratolaunch Maiden Flight

Stratolaunch takes off. (Credit: Stratolaunch)

MOJAVE, Calif. (Scaled Composites PR) — During the annual Society of Experimental Test Pilots symposium this past weekend, test pilot Evan “Ivan” Thomas was awarded the Kincheloe award for the execution of the initial test program and first flight of the Scaled Model 351, Stratolaunch.

In addition, the Stratolaunch first flight crew – Evan “Ivan” Thomas, Chris “Duff” Guarente, and Jake Riley – were awarded the Tenhoff award or the most outstanding technical paper that was presented during the event.

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For Sale: The World’s Largest Airplane*

Stratolaunch takes off. (Credit: Stratolaunch)

As we previously reported, Stratolaunch is up for sale. Paul Allen’s sister Jody Allen, the executor of her brother’s estate, has no interest in continuing the development of the giant airplane, which is designed to air launch rockets.

CNBC reports on the eye popping price tag:

Holding company Vulcan is seeking to sell Stratolaunch for $400 million, people familiar with the matter told CNBC. Vulcan is the investment conglomerate of late billionaire Paul Allen, a Microsoft co-founder. Allen died last October following complications of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

The hefty price tag includes ownership of the airplane as well as the intellectual property and facilities.

Stratolaunch is the world’s largest airplane by wingspan, which stretches 385 feet — longer than an American football field. The plane is powered by six jet engines salvaged from Boeing 747 aircraft.

Allen’s vision of a massive plane that can launch rockets from the air was at least partially fulfilled in April, when Stratolaunch flew for the first time after about eight years in development. Based at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California, the giant airplane flew for more than two hours before landing after what was deemed a successful first flight.

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Report: StratoGoose is Cooked

Stratolaunch takes off. (Credit: Stratolaunch)

Reuters has confirmed reports that Parabolic Arc has been hearing for months here in Mojave: Stratolaunch’s goose is cooked.

Stratolaunch Systems Corporation, the space company founded by late billionaire and Microsoft Corp co-founder Paul Allen, is closing operations, cutting short ambitious plans to challenge traditional aerospace companies in a new “space race,” four people familiar with the matter said on Friday….

[Parent company] Vulcan has been exploring a possible sale of Stratolaunch’s assets and intellectual property, according to one of the four sources and also a fifth person….

The decision to set an exit strategy was made late last year by Allen’s sister, Jody Allen, chair of Vulcan Inc and trustee of the Paul G. Allen Trust, one of the four people and the fifth industry source said.

Jody Allen decided to let the carrier aircraft fly to honor her brother’s wishes and also to prove the vehicle and concept worked, one of the four people said.

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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.