Space-X is perhaps the most exciting new concept in rocketry and could dramatically alter satellite launch costs. Backed by Pay-Pal founder Elon Musk, Space-X is building its Falcon rockets and looking to trim launch costs for satellite operators. However, another venture has now emerged which will create another low-cost reusable launch vehicle.
Musk’s Space-X is entering into a scheme which also has Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen and his SpaceShipOne collaborator Burt Rutan present. Stratolaunch Systems, based in Huntsville, Alabama, is looking to build an aircraft-based satellite launch system capable of carrying medium-sized satellites of up to 6100 kilogrammes onto orbit.
Stratolaunch has a 5-year timetable to its first ‘flight’. The system calls for a giant ‘mother ship’ aircraft capable of carrying a booster craft that itself weighs about 222,000 kgs, and operating from a facility with an ultra-long runway. The mother ship will then fly up to 2400 kilometres to its aerial launch point near the Equator where a rocket-launch system takes over.
Rutan’s part of the business is Scaled Composites, the company building Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic space plane.