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Thread: Stratolaunch’s Gargantuan Flying Launchpad

  1. #31
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    Quote Originally Posted by Trebuchet View Post
    I'd love to see the flight deck of that. Because they've used a lot of items from two 747's, and I spent a lot of time working on stuff in the 747 flight deck. I especially want to see how they are doing six engines.

    ETA: Googled up a picture. Ooh, that looks promising. Caption:


    Nutz! I KNOW what a 747-400 looks like!
    Which side is the cockpit on? Is there one in each fuselage?

    Pilot in one fuselage, copilot on the other? Pilot and one copilot in one fuselage and two more copilots on the other? Can I ride up front?

  2. #32
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    I'm pretty sure it's just one cockpit, but interestingly, when I do an image search the artist's renderings show a windscreen only on one side but the actual airplane has them on both sides.
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  3. #33
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    Cockpit photo, complete with VP Mike Pence. You can see what came from the 747 because it's brown. Not very much, wheel/column, seat, some avionics modules. Throttles look a bit odd -- you're not getting all those in one hand.
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  4. #34
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    Maybe they get a carbon fibre broomstick to manipulate them all at once.

  5. #35
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    Paul Allen is building the Stratolaunch not only to launch small rockets carrying satellites to space, up to 3 rockets at a time, but he has plans to make it 100% reusable. How, the key is "Black Ice"!!!

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/...=.e70da916ea91

    A massive airplane being built by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen moved a step closer to flight last week, when it crept out of its hangar in Mojave, Calif., and practiced rolling down the runway, hitting a top speed of 46 mph.

    Known as Stratolaunch, the plane has a wingspan even greater than that of business mogul Howard Hughes’s famed Spruce Goose and is designed to carry as many as three rockets, tethered to its belly, to about 35,000 feet. Once aloft, the rockets would drop, then fire their engines and deliver satellites to orbit.

    But Allen has even bigger ambitions for Stratolaunch and is considering pairing it with a new space shuttle that’s known inside the company as Black Ice.

  6. #36
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    Here you go: http://www.parabolicarc.com/2017/10/...jave-pictures/

    The caption of the initial picture is "Vice President Mike Pence in the cockpit of Stratolaunch aircraft. (Credit: Stratolaunch)"

    ETA: Ooops sorry, duplicated what you'd already found.

    ETA2: Note that the view out the window includes only the wall of the hangar and not the other fuselage, so that suggests that the active cockpit is in the starboard fuselage, just as is implied by the various 3D mockups. Presumably they didn't want to spend money on replacing the windows of the unused cockpit.

    ETA3: The second photo in the article does show mobile stairs going to the entrance of the starboard cabin, so that seems reasonably conclusive.
    Last edited by selden; 2018-Mar-07 at 01:24 PM.
    Selden

  7. #37
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    Quote Originally Posted by selvaarchi View Post
    Paul Allen is building the Stratolaunch not only to launch small rockets carrying satellites to space, up to 3 rockets at a time, but he has plans to make it 100% reusable. How, the key is "Black Ice"!!!

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/...=.e70da916ea91
    ...so, yet another SSTO spaceplane, following the idea that if it's shaped like an airplane, it'll magically be cheap (stated in very nearly those words by Jean Floyd). If it's the size of the Shuttle, a mass that Stratolaunch can carry, and capable of reaching orbit without staging, it's LH2 fueled, adding the costs and complexity of that to those of air launch. And like previous SSTO attempts, if it's a tiny big overweight, it's payload to orbit is going to be negative, and there's going to be very little mass to spend on reuse. If it actually flies, it'll be a horribly complicated, expensive, and limited launch system.

  8. #38
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    While I'm sure the technical writers for the various popular media outlets like the The Washington Post do their best, the articles published on nasaspaceflight.com tend to be more detailed. For example, one of their recent articles mentions that the flight deck in the left fuselage isn't human rated and is used only for electronics.
    Selden

  9. #39
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    Quote Originally Posted by selden View Post
    Here you go: http://www.parabolicarc.com/2017/10/...jave-pictures/


    ETA2: Note that the view out the window includes only the wall of the hangar and not the other fuselage, so that suggests that the active cockpit is in the starboard fuselage, just as is implied by the various 3D mockups. Presumably they didn't want to spend money on replacing the windows of the unused cockpit.
    None of that cockpit structure comes from the 747 anyway. I believe they'll have some engineering staff in the second one, probably related to the rocket.
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  10. #40
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    "Stratolaunch announces new launch vehicles and reusable space plane"

    https://techcrunch.com/2018/08/20/st...e-space-plane/

    Stratolaunch, the commercial space firm founded by Paul Allen back in 2011, has revealed a bit more of its plan for taking payloads to orbit via one of the world’s biggest planes. It’s now working on a pair of its own rocket-powered launch vehicles, and is in the early phases of creating a reusable, crew-capable space plane.
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  11. #41
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    Is Stratolaunch a secret military machine being built in plain sight.

    https://www.popularmechanics.com/mil...ecret-purpose/

    Seven years ago, Microsoft founder Paul Allen started a company with a bold idea: build one of the biggest aircraft ever to fly, and then use it to launch satellites into orbit. Now just months before the airplane flies the first time, some are wondering where the customers are for such an aircraft. Could the airplane end up flying secret missions for the military and intelligence community?

    Built by aviation firm Scaled Composites, Stratolaunch is the largest aircraft in the world by wingspan. The giant plane's wings stretch a jaw-dropping 385 feet, 25 feet longer than a football field. The aircraft features two identical fuselages, six enormous turbofan engines, and what amounts to three wings—one in the center. The flying leviathan is designed to carry rockets, including eventually a crewed spacecraft, to the edge of space and launch them.
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  12. #42
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    The Shuttle carried secret cargoes in plain sight, so this one could, too.

  13. #43
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    Quote Originally Posted by selvaarchi View Post
    Is Stratolaunch a secret military machine being built in plain sight.

    https://www.popularmechanics.com/mil...ecret-purpose/
    There is only one Stratolaunch aircraft. It's a one-of-a-kind beast with unique maintenance and flight requirements, and if it's grounded or lost, there are no Stratolaunch launches, and there is no unique mission that requires its capabilities. I can't see the military relying on it in any significant sense.

    The justifications given are weak. Payloads aren't going to require any less preparation, the long horizontal carry period means the opposite is more likely to be true. As for time-critical schedules and launches on short notice...Orbital's been trying to launch ICON on a Pegasus operating from Kwajalein since June. At this point, it won't launch until September at the earliest.

  14. #44
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    Quote Originally Posted by cjameshuff View Post
    There is only one Stratolaunch aircraft. It's a one-of-a-kind beast with unique maintenance and flight requirements, and if it's grounded or lost, there are no Stratolaunch launches, and there is no unique mission that requires its capabilities. I can't see the military relying on it in any significant sense.

    The justifications given are weak. Payloads aren't going to require any less preparation, the long horizontal carry period means the opposite is more likely to be true. As for time-critical schedules and launches on short notice...Orbital's been trying to launch ICON on a Pegasus operating from Kwajalein since June. At this point, it won't launch until September at the earliest.
    That's what THEY want you to think!

    Seriously, I found the article rather silly.
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  15. #45
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    If this is another Glomar Explorer scenario, then perhaps the Russians have lost a secret military helium balloon and the US is trying to recover it with a cunning deception plan.

  16. #46
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    "Stratolaunch abandons launch vehicle program"

    https://spacenews.com/stratolaunch-a...hicle-program/

    Stratolaunch, the company founded by the late billionaire Paul Allen, said Jan. 18 that it is ending work on a launch vehicle that would be flown on the company’s giant aircraft.

    In a statement to SpaceNews, a company spokesman said that the company was ending work on its own family of launch vehicles and would instead use its aircraft for launching small Pegasus XL rockets from Northrop Grumman. News of the change in plans was first reported by GeekWire.

    “Stratolaunch is ending the development of their family of launch vehicles and rocket engine,” the spokesman said in an emailed statement. “We are streamlining operations, focusing on the aircraft and our ability to support a demonstration launch of the Northrop Grumman Pegasus XL air-launch vehicle.”
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  17. #47
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    So their plan is now to abandon anything that might lead to a competitive launch vehicle, and proceed with a demo launch of a horribly expensive rocket that has been launching at a rate sufficient to require approximately one fully-loaded Stratolaunch flight per decade. It looks like they're cutting their losses and only looking at a demo launch to save face. I suspect they'll do a launch discounted to far below cost, declare victory, and put the plane in a museum while they try to find buyers for whatever patents and other IP they've accumulated.

    An aside, ICON still hasn't launched. It was originally supposed to launch in December of 2017. SpaceX has done 21 Falcon 9 launches and 1 Falcon Heavy launch since the ICON delays started.

  18. #48
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    Pretty much a solution in search of a problem, apparently. Kind of like Boeing's SeaLaunch floating platform.
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  19. #49
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    I wonder if the death of Paul Allen brought on this decision.
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  20. #50
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    It looks as if Mr. Musk has the right stuff, and Mr. Allen's successors do not.

  21. #51
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    Insert Spruce Goose reference here.

  22. #52
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    Beancounters---always bean counters. They ruin everything.

  23. #53
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    When I first heard about this, I was seeing articles questioning whether it could ever be competitive. That big plane only does so much as a first stage, a plane as launcher has issues - there are safety concerns, mass limitations, and so on. Today, there are more companies pushing into the small rocket/payload market, so it probably is more of a long shot today than when they started working on it.

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  24. #54
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    Maybe they should forget the launch pad story altogether and try to develop a huge external container for it so it can transport oversized payloads? Have a market position like the Antonov An-225.

  25. #55
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    That occurred to me as well. I suspect, however, that it doesn't have a whole lot of range capability.
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  26. #56
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    It does when you strap a rocket engine onto the payload bay! Hang on...

  27. #57
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    Quote Originally Posted by Trebuchet View Post
    That occurred to me as well. I suspect, however, that it doesn't have a whole lot of range capability.
    Ferry range is 4630 km, and you could plausibly increase fuel storage at the cost of payload weight, but there's a limited number of airports that can handle the plane to load and unload such cargos.

    The real problem is this is starting with the plane and trying to find something for it to do. It's not designed to fill any gap in transportation, and probably does not coincidentally fill any such gap that's big enough for this one plane to profitably fly but small enough that nobody's tried to fill it.

  28. #58
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    "Ferry range" would be with no payload.
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  29. #59
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    Quote Originally Posted by Trebuchet View Post
    "Ferry range" would be with no payload.
    Making it roughly the limit to what you could stretch the range to by sacrificing payload mass. Further reduced by whatever payload fairing/container you're using as well, of course.

  30. #60
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    It is in the air.

    https://www.cnbc.com/2019/04/13/stra...r-rockets.html

    Aviation has a new number one in size, as a one-of-a-kind airplane completed its first test flight on Saturday morning above California’s Mojave desert.

    The test makes the immense Stratolaunch the largest airplane in the world to fly, with a wingspan measuring 385 feet -- wider than a football field is long. The plane flew for 2½ hours over the Mojave at altitudes up to 17,000 feet, hitting a maximum speed of 189 miles per hour. With two fuselages and six Boeing 747 engines. Stratolaunch is built to launch rockets from the air.

    Stratolaunch is an “air launch” system, meaning that the aircraft will carry rockets up to about 35,000 feet and then drop the rocket. One of the advantages of such a system, touted by Stratolaunch as well as Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit, is that flying in and out of a traditional runway gives greater flexibility and, eventually, will allow for quick turnaround between launches.
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