Interesting:

Stratolaunch quietly making progress

It seems they’re gearing up a manufacturing facility in Mojave to build the large twin-fuselage carrier aircraft, with a planned first test flight in 2016. Photos of display models of the carrier aircraft and the orbital vehicle at the link.

  • Anonymous

    If they actually get to flying hardware that will be quite an accomplishment. We’ll have these guys, Virgin Galactic, Space X, and Orbital (Antares) pretty much doing it on their own (to one degree or another).

    • Anonymous

      And XCOR and, perhaps, Blue Origin.

      Interesting to think that at the same time the United States of America finalizes its withdrawal from space and from the future, citizen of the United States might well take over and do it their own damn selves.

      • publiusr

        The citizens might do that, if their so-called experts would quit tearing each other’s projects down. And no, I’m not talking about the SLS either

        Dwayne Day (“blackstar”) blasted Stratolaunch in this post
        http://www.thespacereview.com/article/2198/1

        Look, air launch can be difficult, but that is why you need a big plane–not ego.

        That having been said, even the Interim HOTOL might have been pushing it for AN-225, and that actually has more payload capability than Stratolaunch.

        Still, it is nice to see progress on the front.

        On your post “THE WALL”, Scott said

        “the job lasted all of a month, because the X-34 I got hired to work on got cancelled the week after I got there.”

        Shame about the X-34. That also was orbital sciences, I do believe:
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orbital_Sciences_X-34

        I would like to see now life for the X-34 design. Maybe there is a chance, unless the Lynx folks want their design to bum a ride. Nice article on their sub-orbital designs and orbital hopes in the current Air & Space Smithsonian

        If nothing else scale that up for a suborbital Space Ship III that can be released for more seat miles than can be had on SS2. Then it might even have some OK-92 type self ferry jets

        Maybe you could do work for them, Scott.

  • Buck Weaver

    Musk didn’t want any part of this thing. That should tell you something.

    • Anonymous

      Tells me that the changes needed to the Falcon in order to be air launched were pretty substantial. Not sure what more than that it tells me.

      • Buck Weaver

        If air launch were viable, the military would have a developed a system decades ago. Ask people that work, or used to work, for Orbital. Pegasus was, in hindsight, a waste of resources. Everything launched on Pegasus could have been ground launched for cheaper. Air launch is something for comic books.

        • Anonymous

          The fact that Pegasus has, in fact, launched is prima facie evidence that air launch is viable.

          There are arguments for air launch that are somewhat dubious, such as constant claims of lower operations cost, but there is proof that the idea does work.

          • Christopher James Huff

            It gets a (small) payload in orbit…but the Pegasus is even more expensive on a per kg to orbit basis than the Shuttle was.

            A more informative observation might be the fact that despite their experience in this field, Orbital hasn’t done this themselves. Instead of building larger air-launch systems for their own use, they’ve started using liquid-fueled ground-launched systems. And despite the new rocket being called the Pegasus II, they aren’t financing any of its development themselves…Stratolaunch is paying for it all.

          • Anonymous

            > Stratolaunch is paying for it all.

            And if it fails, it’ll be all on them. However, there are levels of failure that might still turn a profit. If the system works, but the rocket and associated operations are just stupidly expensive, the carrier aircraft might still turn a profit hauling cargo. It may well be that that’s the actual business model they’re shooting for.

          • Anonymous

            That underslung pod limits them. AN-225 could carry outsized cargo on its back or internally–out of the elements. Stratolaunch would carry a hell of a bunker buster though.

      • Peter Hanely

        Just eyeballing it, the air launch adds substantial bending loads beyond anything a vertical launch rocket will face, and stress concentrations at the lift points. So the rocket Stratolaunch uses may be in a position to use merlin engines and other components from the Falcon rockets, but need a completely new structural design.

      • Anonymous

        I think the defunct Falcon V was to be used initially, before Dynetics wanted them to omit an engine or two to save on weight IIRC. But this solid launcher would seem to be even heavier…

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