Today we return to our commercial space series as we look at a new player to the field.
Paul G. Allen and Burt Rutan announced yesterday that they were once again partnering to revolutionize the space launch industry. Their last adventure led to the Ansari X Prize winning SpaceShipOne craft which achieved three sub-orbital flights to win the prize in 2004 and is the pre-cursor to Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo.
The Stratolaunch System (SLS) will consist of four primary elements: a carrier aircraft, a multi-stage booster, a mating and integration system, and an orbital payload. Initially the payloads will be unmanned but longer term after the system has been proven manned missions will also be included. To achieve this SLS will be a partnership between Scaled Composites (carrier aircraft), SpaceX (multi-stage booster) and Dynetics (mating and integration system).
The carrier aircraft will be a much larger version of the WhiteKnightTwo craft used by Virgin with a wing-span of 385 feet and be powered by six 747 engines. The craft will weight more than 1.2 million pounds, require a 12,000 foot runaway of takeoff and landing and will be the biggest aircraft ever built.
The multi-stage booster will be derived from SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket.
The mating and integration system (MIS) will have the capacity to carrier up to 500,000 pounds. As well as providing the interface point to the Booster.
Unfortunately the system will not be ready much before 2016 but again the future looks bright for the US launch industry in the future. With the backing of Paul G. Allen there is little doubt that they will succeed.
More details are available on there web site including animations of the SLS.