If Reuters is right, it will be a sad end to one of the most challenging aerospace projects. According to agency sources, Stratolaunch Systems Corporation would be on the verge of shutting down its business.
Founded by billionaire Paul G. Allen, also co-founder of Microsoft, Stratolaunch emerged in 2011 with the goal of building an aerial launch pad platform based on the company’s giant aircraft of the same name.
With two fuselages and six turbofan engines, the aircraft is the longest wingspan ever built (117 meters). Unfortunately, Allen passed away in October last year before seeing his project take off for the first time, which took place on Saturday, April 13 of this year.
According to four sources heard by Reuters, Vulcan Inc, an investment company that has in Stratolaunch one of its units, would have decided to sell the company’s assets and intellectual property. Of the approximately 200 employees there would be little more than 15 people working in the company yet. Stratolaunch and Vulcan declined to comment.
Like the Hughes H-4 Hercules?
Stratolaunch’s plans were to build a plane so large that it could carry large rockets between the fuselages. At about 10,000 meters, this rocket would be launched into space initially with satellites, but in the future there would even be manned spacecrafts planned.
After Allen’s death, Stratolaunch went on to review its designs. In December, she gave up building a series of rockets and spacecraft and focusing on making the plane fly to be able to launch the Northrop-Grumman Pegasus rocket in 2020.
Finally, the six-engine jet made its maiden flight in what may have been the only time the Stratolaunch flew. If that does happen, it will be a repeat of another single flight, that of the Hughes H-4 Hercules, a giant seaplane created by Howard Hughes in the 1940s.
Fortunately, Stratolaunch seems to have the potential to be a successful launcher. It is hoped that this will attract some interested in continuing the dream of Paul G. Allen.