SpaceX Out, Orbital In on Stratolaunch Project

Flight Global 
reports that SpaceX has dropped out of Paul Allen’s Stratolaunch program with Orbital Sciences Corporation of Virginia, which files the air-launched Pegasus booster, taking over on the booster segment.

“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.

“Moving forward, Stratolaunch has engaged Orbital Sciences Corporation to evaluate and develop alternative solutions with the objective of arriving at a design decision in the early spring time frame. The other segment contractors will continue to proceed forward in accordance with existing plans since their interfaces have been defined,” he adds.

Despite the close relations, Stratolaunch’s updated designs required “significant structural mods to incorporate a fin/chine configuration,” according to Wentz. Initial concepts did not include a chine, which is a structural extension of the wing root along the sides of the vehicle, useful for providing lift at high speeds.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk hinted at changes in the Stratolaunch program last week during an appearance in England.