SEATTLE (Reuters) – The space company of billionaire Paul Allen, co-founder of Paul, revealed details of mid-range missiles and a reusable space cargo plane it is developing on Monday, injecting more competition into the lucrative market for launch services.
A new family of launch vehicles, including an air launch system, medium-size missiles and a reusable space cargo plane, can be seen in this artist's rendering image, published by Stratolaunch Systems Corp., the aerospace company of billion-based co-founder Paul Allen, based in Seattle, Washington, USA, on August 20, 2018. Courtesy of Stratolaunch / Brochure Template via REUTERS
With its rockets, Allen's Stratolaunch Systems Corp is trying to demand higher prices for ships that can launch satellites in the coming years. But his vehicles will have to compete in their own country with other space entrepreneurs and leading companies such as Elon Musk & # 39; s SpaceX and United Launch Alliance – a collaboration between Boeing and Lockheed Martin.
The Seattle-based Stratolaunch, founded by Allen in 2011, said in a press release that the launch vehicles will make the deployment of satellites "just as easy as booking an airline flight", although the first rocket launch will be until 2020 and the massive plane at the earliest. is planned it builds to deploy the rockets is still in pre-flight testing.
Instead of launching from a launch pad, Stratolaunch rockets fall far below the six-engine twin hull of the company – the largest ever built by the wingspan.
This launch method is similar to that of the Virgin Galactic by billionaire Richard Branson.
Stratolaunch's aircraft is designed to carry a rocket and cargo with a combined weight of up to 550,000 pounds (250,000 kg), similar to what a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket can launch from the ground.
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It is expected that around 700 small satellites will launch annually around 2020, more than double the annual average in the last decade, according to Marco Caceres, research analyst at the Teal Group.
Stratolaunch has announced plans for the plane years ago to fly the small Pegasus rocket from Northrop Grumman Corp in 2020, and some in the aerospace industry expected that Stratolaunch would eventually make its own missiles after partnerships with other manufacturers failed. .
Stratolaunch said that its new medium-lift rocket with a capacity of about 3,400 kg (7,500 pounds) would fly as early as 2022. It said it was in the initial phase of developing a variant with a payload of 6,000 kg. It did not mention customers of the launch and refused to say how much it would cost to develop its space vehicles.
Stratolaunch recognized that it was designing a reusable spacecraft to carry cargo to and from Earth and a follow-up variant could transport people.
Reporting by Eric M. Johnson in Seattle; Edit by Cynthia Osterman