(Image source: Stratolaunch Systems Corporation)

Late Paul Allen’s Stratolaunch company cancels launch vehicle projects

Months after founder Paul G. Allen’s death, Seattle-based Stratolaunch Systems Corporation will abandon several launch vehicle projects. The news comes days after a brief social media update on the massive Stratolaunch composite aircraft’s latest high-speed taxi test at the Mojave Air and Space Port in Mojave, California. Development of the aircraft as an aerial launch platform for launch vehicles – chiefly the Northrop Grumman-developed Pegasus XL rocket – will continue.

Read more: Stratolaunch composite air-launch aircraft pulls the wheels up during latest taxi test

At least three proprietary Stratolaunch vehicle designs are slated for cancellation, including the 7,500-kilogram payload medium launch vehicle (MLV); a heavy, three-core variant of the MVL capable of deploying payloads up to 13,000 kilograms heavier payloads to orbit; and a fully reusable space plane for advanced in-orbit capabilities, crew transport, and cargo return.

(Image source: Stratolaunch Systems Corporation)

According to Stratolaunch’s latest release, the MLV was currently in development with a first flight planned for 2022. The MLV Heavy was listed under “early development” and the space plane under “design study.”

The cancelled MLV and MLV Heavy would have leveraged the PGA (for Paul G. Allen) rocket engine the company successfully tested in late 2018.

Early reporting suggests that Stratolaunch may be scaling back due to the death of Allen, under the notion that many New Space companies such as Virgin Galactic and Blue Origin rely on investments from their founders.

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William Kucinski is content editor at SAE International, Aerospace Products Group in Warrendale, Pa. Previously, he worked as a writer at the NASA Safety Center in Cleveland, Ohio and was responsible for writing the agency’s System Failure Case Studies. His interests include literally anything that has to do with space, past and present military aircraft, and propulsion technology.
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