Microsoft Founder Paul Allen’s space company Stratolaunch has introduced a whole family of rockets that they plan to use when sending satellites to space in the near future.
It’s all about four different types of rockets/spacecraft, of which only one of them actually exists so far. The first rocket that Stratolaunch will shoot to space will be a Pegasus rocket from Orbital ATK, a company that was bought by Northrop Grumman earlier this year. This is the rocket that appears to the far left on the picture above, and it will launch Stratolaunch to space for the first time in 2020.
The other rockets in the “family” only exist as concepts and will be developed by Stratolaunch in the future. The two more conventional rockets that are seen in the middle of the image above are capable of deploying satellites of a total weight of 3 400 kg and 6 000 kg respectively. The smaller of these two will be launched into space for the first time in 2022.
The fourth and most spectacular of the four in the family is the small space shuttle that appears at the far right. It will be able to land and then be reused, like the U.S. the Space Shuttle Program.
Stratolaunch, like its competitor Virgin Galactic, will fly its rockets to a high altitude with a huge aircraft from where the rockets will be fired and continue their journey to space. You can check out a Stratolaunch news story below.
None of these are about to make SpaceX developers break out in a cold sweat, though. A Falcon 9 rocket can carry 5 500 kg to a geosynchronous transfer orbit even when the first stage is meant to land. That’s not what Stratolaunch is really aiming for, though. Rather, the company is aiming for another sector of the future ever-expanding space industry. The company products are meant to both lower the costs of ferrying payloads and improve flexibility. While it might take years for all of these announced vehicles to enter service, it could be worthwhile if it makes space more accessible.
It is a similar concept as that of Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic that is already test-flying an air-launched space plane that will take payloads and people to and from suborbital space.