A giant aeroplane that can in mid-flight launch a rocket carrying cargo and humans into orbit is the future of space travel, according to Microsoft co-founder & billionaire philanthropist Paul Allen.
Technology tycoon Paul Allen and aerospace pioneer Burt Rutan unveiled plans in Seattle on Tuesday for a twin - fuselage aircraft, with wings longer than a football field, to carry a rocket high into the atmosphere and drop it — avoiding the need for a launch pad and the expense of additional rocket fuel.
Several companies are competing to develop spacecraft to deliver cargo and astronauts to the International Space Station. Allen criticized the fact that government sponsored space programmes are waning.
Allen and Rutan last collaborated on the experimental "SpaceShipOne" , which was launched in the air from a special aircraft. It became the first privately financed, manned spacecraft to go into space in 2004 and later won the $ 10 million Ansari X Prize for accomplishing the feat twice in two weeks.
Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic licensed the technology and is developing "SpaceShipTwo" to carry tourists into space.
The new plane will have a wingspan of 117.35m — the world’s largest. A space capsule with its own booster rocket will blast into orbit after the plane climbs high into the atmosphere.
This method saves money by not using rocket fuel to get off the ground. Another older rocket company, Orbital Sciences Corp, uses this method for unmanned rockets to launch satellites.
The rockets will eventually carry people, but the first tests, scheduled for 2016, will be unmanned. It should be another five years before people can fly on the system that Allen and Rutan are calling Stratolaunch. The company, to be based in Huntsville, Alabama, bills its method of getting to space as “any orbit, any time”. Rutan will build the carrier aircraft, using six 747 engines.
The spaceship and booster will be provided by another internet tycoon, Elon Musk of PayPal, who has built a successful commercial rocket.
Allen left Microsoft in 1983. Since his time at the software giant, he has pursued many varied interests. He is the owner of the Seattle Seahawks football team as well as the Portland Trailblazers of the NBA.
An artists impression of the space-craft
Article Source: Mail Today