Company Stratolaunch September 2020 plans to resume test flights of the Stratolaunch Model 351 — plane with the longest wing in the world, according to SpaceNews, citing a statement by Vice-President of the company. However, in the next few years the aircraft will not be used to launch missiles, and to test different technologies and tools in the atmospheric and suborbital hypersonic flights.
Stratolaunch Model 351 is the aircraft carrier with dvuhfyuzelyazhny design and the world’s largest wing, its length is 117,3 meters. Initially, the project meant that the aircraft will replace the first stage of a traditional booster: after taking off with a rocket or a spaceplane as cargo at an altitude of 11 kilometers apparatus is separated from the plane and start an independent mission to orbit.
In 2018, the company presented the projects of two missiles and spaceplane to output various payloads. However, after the death of one of the founders of the company Paul Allen at the end of 2018, the project has changed significantly and has refused to develop its own rockets in favor of the already existing Pegasus XL, and then faced financial difficulties and was exhibited for sale, despite a successful first flight a few months before.
Now Vice-President of the company mark Bitterman (Mark Bitterman) spoke at the conference on suborbital research of the new generation and said that the company will continue flights Stratolaunch Model 351, but again, to change the concept. Now Stratolaunch plans to use the plane as a carrier for atmospheric and suborbital hypersonic vehicles own and third-party development.
The company did not elaborate on what devices can be discussed. In 2018, its engineers have submitted the article with the description of two hypersonic vehicles, one of which must reach speeds of Mach 10, and the second 6 Mach. Perhaps the company uses the work on this project when creating new devices.
Now Stratolaunch is trying to get permission to fly and a certification from the Federal office of civil aviation USA (FAA). The first flights should begin in September 2020 and the company plans to make at least one flight per month. After a few years, Stratolaunch allows for a return to the idea of launching space rockets from the plane.
Scheme air launch also uses the Northrop Grumman missile Pegasus XL, and two companies of the Virgin Group. Virgin Galactic uses a similar design, but much smaller dvuhfyuzelyazhny aircraft, White Knight, takes off with a spaceplane VSS Unity, and the Orbit Virgin plans to use a modified Boeing 747 to launch a small rocket LauncherOne. While the rocket was not launched into space, but already have experienced relief from under the wing of the aircraft.