2023 Author: Bryan Walter | [email protected]. Last modified: 2023-05-21 22:24
The American company Stratolaunch Systems has abandoned plans to develop its own vehicles for launching cargo into orbit, and the development of the PGA rocket engine will also be discontinued, GeekWire reports. Instead, the company will use the Pegasus XL launch vehicle developed by Orbital ATK.
Stratolaunch Systems is known for its twin-body Stratolaunch carrier aircraft, its wingspan is 117.3 meters (it is the aircraft with the longest wing in the world), and the length of both fuselages is 72.5 meters. The aircraft has a mass of 226.8 tons and a maximum take-off weight of 589.7 tons. For takeoff, Stratolaunch needs a strip of 3, 7 kilometers long. The aircraft is still undergoing tests and has not yet taken off - it recently made a series of high-speed runs along the runway, and during the last of them, the breakout speed of the front landing gear was achieved.
Stratolaunch is planned to be used as an aerial platform for launching rockets and spaceplanes, due to the launch from a high altitude, less fuel can be used and, accordingly, rockets are smaller and lighter than when launched from the ground, and an air launch provides a flexible choice of the rocket flight path … Despite the fact that the developers initially said that the first test launch will take place with the Pegasus XL rocket developed by Orbital ATK (for it, an aerial launch is not new), Stratolaunch has also worked on its own vehicles for delivering cargo into orbit. So, in 2018, the company announced that it will create two air launch missiles MLV and MLV Heavy, as well as a pair of hypersonic spaceplanes Hyper-A and Hyper-Z. In addition, Stratolaunch Systems developed its own PGA hydrogen engine, named after co-founder Paul Allen.
Now, months after Paul Allen's death, the company has decided to abandon the development of its own spacecraft and engine. Instead, Stratolaunch Systems use the Pegasus XL launch vehicle for launches. It is assumed that in one flight the carrier aircraft will be able to lift up to three missiles of this class into the air, which will make it possible to reduce the cost of launches.
It's worth noting that Stratolaunch Systems isn't the only company hoping for an air launch. The Virgin Group operates according to a similar scheme, in which two companies use a similar scheme at once. Thus, Virgin Orbit plans to launch the LauncherOne launch vehicle from a modified Boeing 747-400 cargo plane (so far only a flight without launching a rocket has taken place), and Virgin Galactic uses the WhiteKnightTwo two-body launch vehicle to test the SpaceShipTwo suborbital spaceplane.