#2 MINUTE READ

  1. Largest plane in the world
  2. Debut in California
  3. Initiative by Paul Allen (someone related to Microsoft)

All about the BUZZ

Paul Allen: Chairman and Founder Vulcan Inc., Co-founder Microsoft

Paul Allen (Better known as Microsoft co-founder) rolled out world’s biggest plane.The plane is designed to send satellites into orbits. Allen teamed up with Scaled Composites, a Mojave-based aerospace company founded by Burt Rutan, to build the Stratolaunch carrier plane. Picture showing plane is pushed out of the hanger for the first time to begin fuelling test, in the Mojave Desert, California.

Note: Paul Allen has also been associated with other space business. His diverse business portfolio includes the SpaceShipOne project that sent fellow billionaires into space.

 

  • Dual-hulled Stratolaunch aircraft
  • 117-metre = 385 feet wingspan which is longer than football field
  • Six Boeing 747 jet engines
  • A height of 50 feet
  • Can carry a payload capacity of over 500,000 lbs = 226,797 kg (approx.)
  • Its total weight can reach as high as 1.3 million pounds
  • Operational range of approximately 2,000 nautical miles = 1080 km (approx.)
  • 28 wheels
  • Stratolaunch is capable of delivering payloads to multiple orbits and inclinations in a single mission.

All about Stratolaunch

Stratolaunch was founded in 2011 by Paul G. Allen. Stratolaunch is developing an air-launch platform to make access to space more convenient, reliable and routine.

Stratolaunch is the world’s largest aircraft by wingspan and is the largest all-composite plane ever built. It is expected to cost $300m – although whether it came in on budget has not been revealed.

Allen’s Stratolaunch Company has partnered with Orbital ATK to “air launch” the company’s Pegasus XL, a rocket capable of delivering small satellites weighing as much as 1,000 pounds, to orbit. The rockets would be tethered to the belly of the giant plane, which would fly them aloft, and once at an altitude of 35,000 feet or so, the rockets would drop and “air launch” to space.

Competition

The plane is designed to release rockets that will carry satellites into space. The actual launch demonstration is planned for 2019. The plane will be larger than Howard Hughes’ 1947 H-4 Hercules, known as the “Spruce Goose,”

In contrast, Russia’s Antonov An-225 is currently the world’s largest active plane, originally built to transport the Buran space shuttle.

  • An-225 is 37 feet longer than Stratolaunch
  • Stratolaunch wingspan is 95 feet longer than An-225
Russian Antonov An-225

Benefit

Stratolaunch’s reusability and air-launch capabilities enables to take an airport-style approach to operations for launch services. Stratolaunch will take off from a runway, rather than a logistically vulnerable fixed range. This allows us to avoid hazards such as inclement weather, airborne traffic and heavy marine activity. Stratolaunch’s airborne launch platform significantly reduces the risk of costly delays or cancellations.

Business Sense

For Allen, it’s all about LEO, or low-Earth orbit. He, and others, such as Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit, are betting that they can reduce the cost of launching small satellites to space. And that, will lead to new ways to beam the internet all across the globe, provide better Earth sensing capabilities, better communication, and open up all sorts of avenues.

How it all started

More than a decade ago, Allen had hoped to spark a revolution in space travel when he funded SpaceShipOne. SpaceShipOne, which became the first commercial vehicle to enter suborbital space. The project ultimately won the Ansari X Prize, and a $20 million award. He then licensed the technology to Branson and moved on to other pursuits.

But with Stratolaunch, he is back in the space business. Stratolaunch’s launch profile resembles that of SpaceShipOne, which was carried to launch altitude by its own mothership, called the WhiteKnight.

Stratolaunch

Is Allen the only one

Allen isn’t the only US billionaire with such interest in space technology. Jeff Bezos, the Amazon CEO, and Elon Musk, the Tesla and SpaceX CEO are also eyeing the same pie.

  • SpaceX successfully launched a used rocket into space. And the company plans to fly two customers around the moon in 2018. It’s already delivered satellites and has made resupply trips to the International Space Station.
  • Like Musk, Bezos wants to reuse rockets to drive down the cost of space travel. But for the time being, Blue Origin is mostly interested in conducting suborbital flights for tourists.
  • Sir Richard Branson, also derived its launch system from Scaled Composites. Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo space planes will launch passenger flights from the belly of a WhiteKnightTwo carrier plane, which has a wingspan of 140 feet (42 m).

Final comment – ISRO

Are you in the race? Long way to go….



 

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