Stratolaunch Unveils “Family” Of Launch Vehicles

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With their giant satellite-launching high-altitude plane now preparing for first flight, Stratolaunch announced on Monday they are developing “a new family of launch vehicles” that will begin regular service in 2020. The vehicles will launch from the airplane and carry satellites to orbit to “make access to space convenient, affordable and routine,” the company says. In a statement, CEO Jean Floyd said, “We are excited to share for the first time some details about the development of our own, proprietary Stratolaunch launch vehicles, with which we will offer a flexible launch capability unlike any other.” The company also is working on a design for a reusable space plane that would launch from the Stratolaunch aircraft and could be used to transport cargo or crew.

The four vehicles are in varying stages of development. Pegasus already has an existing track record of over 35 successful launches, and can carry up to 370 kg. First flight from the Stratolaunch platform is expected in 2020. A medium launch vehicle (MLV), which can carry up to 3400 kg, is in development, with first flight expected in 2022. An MLV-Heavy that could lift 6000 kg into orbit is in the early stages of development. The reusable space plane is in the design-study phase. The Stratolaunch company was founded in 2011 by Paul Allen, a cofounder of Microsoft, whose personal fortune is estimated by Forbes at $20 billion.

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