Stratolaunch Systems announced Monday a new line of launch vehicles that includes a space plane.
The company has built the world’s largest airplane at the Mojave Air & Space Port to take these vehicles carrying satellites up to an altitude of 35,000 feet and then launch them into Earth orbit. The new line will enter service in 2020.
Chief Executive Jean Floyd said that these vehicles will offer a flexible launch capability unlike any other.
“Whatever the payload, whatever the orbit, getting your satellite into space will soon be as easy as booking an airline flight,” Floyd said in a statement.
The launch vehicles include Pegasus, a rocket that can carry a payload up to 1,000 pounds and has had more than 30 successful launches. Pegasus was developed by Orbital ATK Inc. prior to that company’s acquisition by Northrop Grumman Corp. The first launch by Stratolaunch is set for 2020.
Under development are two versions of a medium launch vehicle that can carry payloads between 7,500 pounds and 13,000 pounds, and the reusable space plane that will eventually have a version capable of carrying a crew. The space plane is in the design study phase.
Stratolaunch is building the first-of-its-kind airplane to launch satellite-carrying rockets into orbit. Northrop Grumman Corp.’s subsidiary Scaled Composites is building the craft, which will be the largest aircraft in the world with a wingspan of 385.
Stratolaunch was founded in 2011 by billionaire Paul Allen to launch satellite-carrying rockets into orbit as a lower cost alternative to ground-launched rockets.