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Airborne Rocket Launch Technology

January 3, 2012

Today’s Note covers a piece on wired.com’s autotopia blog titled “Paul Allen’s Plans For Space Takes Air Launching To Next Level.” The post, by Jason Paur, explains that Paul Allen plans to build the largest airplane ever and use it to launch space vehicles into orbit. This modern day Spruce Goose redux may not be as outlandish as it sounds.

Paur explains that “as wild as the idea of a six-engine airplane carrying a multi-stage rocket may be, it is evolutionary, not revolutionary” and that Burt Rutan favors this method as well. [italics are added by me to draw attention to quotes from the article]

The key elements of the plan are summarized by Paur in this paragraph:

Allen and Rutan have proposed building an aircraft that features six Boeing 747 engines and a wingspan of 385 feet — more than 120 feet wider than an Airbus A380, currently the largest commercial passenger plane in service. It’s nearly 100 feet more wingspan than the Antonov An-225, the world’s largest airplane. The airplane will have a gross weight of 1.2 million pounds, including a 490,000-pound booster rocket being developed by SpaceX. The mothership will fly to an altitude of about 30,000 feet, then release the rocket. The aircraft will be designed and built by Scaled Composites.

This scheme could be launching rockets by 2016. The post is an interesting read that’s packed full of facts. If you are interested in aviation, space or technology, this is worth a read.

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From → Science, Space, Technology

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