“The carrier aircraft conducted their preliminary design review on [August 27-28] in Mojave, California,” says the company, which notes that it’s now reviewing the data package and presentation.
Modelled on Virgin Galactic’s WhiteKnightTwo, which is aimed at the tourist market, the Stratolaunch carrier aircraft will instead be used to haul SpaceX-built rockets up to 9,140m (30,000ft) before air-launching them. The process, which will allow for the rockets to carry payloads with greater efficiency than traditional, vertical-take-off rockets, is meant to be targeted at satellite manufacturers.
Stratolaunch claims the plane, which will employ six 747 engines, will boast the largest wingspan of any aircraft to date, at 117 m (385 ft). The custom buildout will begin by incorporating engines, hydraulics, and other systems from two Boeing 747-400s, which have been purchased from United Airlines. Configuration of the SpaceX rockets has not yet been finalized, according to FlightGlobal. The carrier is expected to be operational by 2016 and greatly reduce the cost of access to outer space.