Paul Allen (who co-founded Microsoft with Bill Gates) and Burt Rutan (who may be the most inventive aerospace engineer since the Wright brothers) are collaborating again. Their last project, SpaceShipOne, was the first privately-funded, manned rocket ship to fly beyond earth’s atmosphere, but this time they’re going really big.
Mr. Allen’s new company, Stratolaunch Systems, intends to build a mobile launch system capable of delivering a 4.5 tonne payload into low earth orbit. It will have three primary components:
- A carrier aircraft, developed by Scaled Composites, the aircraft manufacturer and assembler founded by Rutan. It will be the largest aircraft ever flown;
- A multi-stage booster, manufactured by Space Exploration Technologies;
- A mating and integration system allowing the carrier aircraft to safely carry a booster weighing up to 490,000 pounds. It will be built by aerospace engineering company Dynetics.
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