Stratolaunch has revamped its website with some new photos of its gigantic carrier aircraft under construction at the Mojave Air and Space Port.
The twin fuselage airplane will be the largest aircraft in the world, with a 385-foot wing span. Powered by six Boeing 747 engines, the aircraft will have a payload of more than 500,000 lbs. (226,796 kg) and an operational range of approximately 2,000 nautical miles (3,715 km).
The Stratolaunch aircraft is designed to air launch launch vehicles. The company has an agreement with Orbital ATK to use its Pegasus small-satellite booster.
In March, billionaire backer Paul Allen has said he hopes the carrier aircraft will make its first flight test by the end of the year.
NASA officials have been providing updates this week on agency programs and missions during the 2016 Small Satellite Conference and the CubeSat Workshop that preceded it. I have pulled together summaries of their presentations drawn from Twitter. Information has come from the following Tweeters:
SAN ANTONIO (SwRI PR) — NASA’s Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System (CYGNSS) mission took another major step last month as the eight CYGNSS microsatellites successfully completed functional and environmental testing of their systems and software. The mission is on track for launch in late 2016.
CYGNSS will probe the inner core of hurricanes in greater detail to better understand their rapid intensification.
Recently, there’s been a bit of a kerfuffle over the use of surplus intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) to launch satellites. Orbital ATK would like to lift the ban on using them to launch commercial satellites, the U.S. Air Force would like to find a way to sell the engines, and an emerging commercial launch industry that doesn’t want what it considers government-subsidized competition.
Now, you’ve probably been wondering a few things. What does Orbital ATK do with these engines? What does it launch on them? And what launch vehicles are in operation or in development to compete with these boosters?
Those are all great questions. And now the answers.
At the Space Tech Expo last week in Long Beach, Calif., representatives from Arianespace, Orbital Sciences Corporation, SpaceX and United Launch Alliance (ULA) discussed the fierce competition in the industry and their plans for the future.
Carissa Christensen Managing Partner The Tauri Group (Moderator)
Gwynne Shotwell President & Chief Operating Officer SpaceX
Daniel J Collins Chief Operating Officer United Launch Alliance
Clay Mowry President Arianespace
Frank Culbertson Executive Vice President Orbital Sciences Corporation
Dulles, VA, 1 April 2014 (Orbital PR) – Orbital Sciences Corporation (NYSE: ORB), one of the world’s leading space technology companies, today announced that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has awarded the company a contract to launch the Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System (CYGNSS) multi-satellite mission aboard a Pegasus XL rocket carried aloft by Orbital’s “Stargazer” L-1011 aircraft. The CYGNSS mission is scheduled to launch in October 2016 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
Continuing our look at U.S. launch vehicles, we turn our spotlight onto Orbital Sciences Corporation. Although the Virginia company is traditionally a supplier of small launch vehicles, it recently made the leap to medium-lift rockets.
Orbital currently operates four launch vehicles:
Pegasus, an air-launched solid-fuel vehicle for small satellites;
Taurus, a land-based variant of the Pegasus booster with a decommissioned Peacekeeper ballistic missile used as the first stage;
Minotaur, a family of small solid-fuel launchers that uses a mixture of decommissioned Peacekeeper and Minuteman II ballistic missile stages and Pegasus and Taurus technology; and,
Antares, a new medium-class, liquid-fuel booster developed under NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program that will launch Cygnus freighters to the International Space Station.
The company also is developing a new air-launched rocket nicknamed Pegasus II for Paul Allen’s Stratolaunch Systems company. This new medium launch vehicle is set to make its debut flight in 2016.
Let’s now take a closer look at Orbital’s programs. The launch history tables below are adapted from Wikipedia.
“Stratolaunch and SpaceX have amicably agreed to end our contractual relationship because the current launch vehicle design has departed significantly from the Falcon derivative vehicle envisioned by SpaceX and does not fit well with their long-term strategic business model,” says Gary Wentz, Stratolaunch CEO, in a 27 November email.
Orbital Sciences Corporation opened up its Stargazer launch aircraft for public tours last week during Plane Crazy Saturday at the Mojave Air and Space Port. It offered a rare opportunity to see inside the airplane.
If you want to see what all the excitement is about, drop by this Saturday for the spaceport’s monthly open house.
Plane Crazy Saturday “October Skies” in Mojave! OCTOBER 20, 2012 10 A.M. – 2 P.M.
This Plane Crazy Saturday event features:
Displays by XCOR Aerospace, Masten Space Systems & Firestar Technologies
Tours of Orbital Sciences Corporation’s L-1011 “Stargazer”
Special Presentation in EKAD Board Room by ‘STARGAZER PILOT’ Bill Weaver at 11 a.m.
Weaver has flight-tested all models of the Mach-2 F-104 Starfighter and the entire family of Mach 3+ Blackbirds-the A-12, YF-12 and SR-71. During one harrowing flight, his SR-71 broke apart at 78,800-feet when the aircraft was doing Mach 3.18. Come hear how he survived.
Weaver will also talk about his flights on Orbital Sciences Corporation’s L-1011, which has been modified to carry the Pegasus satellite-launch vehicle.
The California Pilots Association is having its annual meeting in Mojave this week. So, there will be a lot of planes to see.
And the Mojave Makers will be having an open house at their Maker Space.
Orbital Sciences Corporation, one of the worldâ€™s leading space technology companies, today announced it has received two separate orders from NASA to launch scientific satellites on its industry-leading small rockets, PegasusÂ® XL and TaurusÂ® XL. These contracts bring the total Pegasus and Taurus orders to 55 vehicles since the first Pegasus was purchased in 1988. Taken together, the two rockets have launched or will boost a total of 35 NASA scientific and technology demonstration spacecraft on 30 missions since 1990.
What future for midair rocket launches? Daily Yomiuri
The government has embarked on the development of midair rocket-launching technology, a new method of firing off rockets, in the hope the technique can be put into practical use. In a midair rocket launch, a small rocket takes a satellite into orbit after being launched from a plane over open seas. Such midair rocket launches have been used for commercial purposes by the United States for about 20 years.
Two British companies are involved in discussions about developing a low-cost rocket capable of putting small satellites in orbit. The idea is being promoted by SSTL, a firm in Guildford, Surrey, best known for its Earth observation spacecraft, in conjunction with Virgin Galactic.