Stratolaunch scales back

Mojave-based Stratolaunch Systems Corp has scrapped plans to develop launch vehicles for its giant aircraft. With its 385ft (117m) wingspan, Stratolaunch is designed to airlaunch rockets to put payloads into low-Earth orbit. Last year plans were announced to develop three proprietary launch vehicles, a medium launch vehicle, a heavy launch vehicle, and a reusable spaceplane, for the aircraft.

However, those plans have now been shelved. A Stratolaunch spokesperson told AIR International: “We are streamlining operations, focusing on the aircraft and our ability to support a demonstration launch of the Northrop Grumman Pegasus XL air-launch vehicle. We are immensely proud of what we have accomplished and look forward to first flight in 2019.””

The huge six-engine Stratolaunch aircraft has been undergoing static and ground taxiing trials at Mojave since 2017. Stratolaunch Systems Corp was founded in 2011 by the billionaire Microsoft co-founder Paul G Allen, who died last year.