To cap off an exciting week in space, and particularly private space, the Roc flew for two hours in Mojave this morning.

I still don’t understand the business model for this airplane. I wonder if it will be another Spruce Goose (whose time in the air was vastly exceeded by this flight).

[Update a couple minutes later]

Doug Messier was there.

[Update early afternoon]

Here‘s Jeff Foust’s story.

14 thoughts on “Stratolaunch”

  1. My understanding is that the late Paul Allen’s company (what’s left of it under the terms of the will) is trying to get Northrop Grumman (parent of Scaled Composites, who built the thing) to buy it. Personally, I wouldn’t touch it with a 300-ft pole and can’t imagine that NGC sees a business case in it.

    1. something like an X-33 or dream chaser.
      Or something like an X-33 or dream chaser which does suborbital.
      In terms of suborbital, 5 to 10 mins of zero gee.
      Passenger capacity 30 to 40 people and in addition a play room and/or cargo space. Or said differently, a passenger luggage space much bigger than what 30 to 40 people would need. Could/might be accessible from passenger area and have windows and stuff. And stuff might include ability to skydive from it from 100 km elevation.

      You might want to start with a more basic model and add complexity, later. And maybe start a play room and airlock which allow skydiving at say 40 km elevation. And later, 100 km or higher.

      1. You’re packing an awful lot of people into a Dreamchaser, and an awful lot of activity into five or ten minutes.

        1. A Dreamchaser is designed to re enter at orbital speed and sub orbital, unless it’s going +2000 km, doesn’t need such a capability. And could say same for the non existing X-33.
          I meant “something like” in terms of general mass and shape and neither were designed to be dropped from mothership.
          And large problem is you only have one Stratolaunch, so main value of it, is for experiment uses rather than depending on that one plane.
          So to avoid the fate of being part of amusement exhibit, Stratolaunch should first prove it’s abilities and do “odd jobs” to pay for operational cost, and in time, maybe more Stratolaunchers could be made, if they needed to something specific. So a pod for skydiving might work.

  2. The business model is at best not obvious, yes.

    There might, barely, have been a commercial case for roughly halving the size of an expendable booster for a given medium payload. Marginal even then, though – additional first stage size and propellant doesn’t increment cost that much. The Roc would have had to be quick and cheap to have a chance here, and it wasn’t. And the arrival of reusable first stages has completely sunk that one.

    Mobile-base launch for lower inclinations? Roc doesn’t have the range, AFAIK.

    Enabling a single-stage-from-stratosphere reusable light orbital transport? Maybe if the transport development cost weren’t prohibitive, compared to lower-performance reusable upper stages to launch off reusable rocket boosters.

    Mobile-base launch for stealthy nat-sec launch, Glomar-Birdzilla? See above about range, plus this beast will never be easy to hide. I doubt this one more with every year that passes.

    Possibly Burt just really really wanted to build the biggest carrier-aircraft ever, and his friend Paul had enough of the ready to humor him.

    But most likely it’s the same story as the Spruce Goose – originally there was a halfway reasonable case, but by the time the bird finally flew, the world had moved on and the case had evaporated.

      1. I think “halfway reasonable” is awfully generous, for even the original case for the SLS.

  3. I think the plane, if it has any future at all, will end up flying for Virgin. From what I’ve heard, they’re interested in a growth version of their rocket with a glideback capability. That won’t be possible with a 747.

  4. As with the U-2 and SR-71 the Stratolaunch case makes sense if the primary customer is based in Langley, VA.

    1. Carrier aircraft for a modern take on Isinglass/Rheinberry? Well, that’s the least implausible practical use for Roc I can imagine, for whatever “least implausible” is worth.

      It would depend on whether such a once-around recon ship would be vulnerable to high-end ABM-capable SAMs. Which is a question requiring data waaaayyy beyond my (non-existent) clearance level to answer beyond the hand-waving level.

  5. The business model never made much sense to me.
    Now that Allen is dead and not funding this anymore yeah I would not be surprised if this was the end to the whole thing.

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