World's Largest Plane to Fly Before 2019, Launch Three Rockets By 2022

Three rockets will reportedly be launched into space from an aircraft the size of a football field before the end of 2022.

Stratolaunch Systems, a space transportation manufacturer, plans to fly the world's largest twin-boom carrier plane before the end of the year, according to an Ars Technica report. The company is also looking to launch three kinds of medium launch vehicle (MLV) rockets into space from the aircraft while the plane cruises at 30,000 feet approximately four years after launching the plane in an attempt to find a sustainable way to launch rockets. One of the three rockets is still being developed. Of the other two rockets, one is a reusable cargo plane that allows for in-orbit weight, eventually including astronauts, to be returned to Earth.

"Whatever the payload, whatever the orbit, getting your satellite into space will soon be as easy as booking an airline flight," said Stratolaunch Chief Executive Officer Jean Floyd in a news release. The company described the MLV as a "medium-class air-launch vehicle optimized for short satellite integration timelines, affordable launch and flexible launch profiles" in a Space News report.

The MLV still in development will be optimized for affordable launches and short satellite integration times to transport approximately 3.4 tons of weight to the lower Earth Orbit. The MLV-Heavy will be able to handle more cargo and deploy about six tons of weight from space. Originally the aircraft planned to carry small Pegasus rockets from the aircraft, Wired reported. Those rockets would have unable to carry more than 370 kilograms of weight into the Earth's lower orbit, so the project decided not to use them.

The company continued to test the plane with the 385-foot wingspan and six jet engines, otherwise known as the Scaled Composites Stratolaunch, on the ground throughout the last year while in Mojave, California. The plane reportedly weighs just over a ton and has a two-stage rocket booster that can be activated through the center body of the plane, according to an infographic of the aircraft published by Space.com.

"We are excited to share for the first time some details about the development of our own, proprietary Stratolaunch launch vehicles, with which we will offer a flexible launch capability unlike any other," said Floyd.

The company did not release additional details about the rockets and built them in-house after deals with SpaceX and Orbital ATK to build the rockets failed. Representatives could not be reached for further comment.

Stratolaunch
A rendering of a new family of launch vehicles including an air-launch system, medium-lift rockets and a reusable space cargo plane. Stratolaunch is planning to fly the world's largest aircraft by the end of the year. Stratolaunch
World's Largest Plane to Fly Before 2019, Launch Three Rockets By 2022 | World