In an effort to transform the space industry just like Richard Branson and his Virgin Galactic project, Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen has announced that he will build the world’s largest airplane in order to create a mobile platform for launching satellites into space at a low cost. Specifically, the Stratolaunch will be able to transport both passengers and cargo into orbit and is set to be commercially available by 2016.
More importantly and unlike traditional rockets, the Stratolaunch will not need a launch pad for liftoff as the aircraft simply goes to a high altitude where the rocket part of the aircraft is released in-order to blast the ship into outer space.
The Wall Street Journal has produced the following video segment about Stratolaunch where some skepticism was expressed – not so much on the science or technology behind the idea but about whether the project will be commercially viable:
Otherwise, Stratolaunch has also produced its own video:
Of course, Richard Branson already has a big head start with his Virgin Galactic project plus a clear business model (space tourism) but apparently Allen believes there is a market to send small satellites into space and plans to spend $50 to $100 million on his Stratolaunch project. Moreover, he has teamed up with aerospace pioneer Burt Rutan plus Elon Musk, the founder of PayPal and Tesla, to launch his Stratolaunch project.