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Giant airplane to launch rockets into space
By Jinny Throup
The billionaire co-founder of Microsoft, Paul Allen, has put into motion an audacious plan to build the world’s largest airplane which will be used to launch rockets into space. The plane, known as Stratolaunch, is a twin-fuselage, six-engine giant with a wingspan wider than the length of a football field. The idea is to strap rockets underneath the wings of the plane and fly them to 35,000 feet before releasing them. This would give the rockets a head start on their journey to space without need for the massive amount of lift power that it takes to get to that height. Other advantages over conventional ground launching include the ability to fly above or around bad weather, and more flexibility in putting rockets into specific orbits.
Stratolaunch is being developed at the Mojave Air and Space Port north of Los Angeles, California. Mr Allen says that they intend to start launching Pegasus rockets from the plane in 2020. Ultimately they aim to offer customers a choice of three different sized rockets designed to take payloads of varying weights and sizes into orbit. Also in the pipeline are plans to build and launch a small space plane capable of carrying passengers. Allen and his team envision a potentially robust future market for space transportation. They see the development of Stratolaunch as the key to making spaceflight less expensive and more dependable.