Skip to comments.Microsoft Co-Founder To Build Giant Plane To Launch People, Cargo Into Space
Posted on 12/13/2011 3:46:04 PM PST by mandaladon
Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen and aerospace pioneer Burt Rutan are building the worlds biggest plane to help launch cargo and astronauts into space, in the latest of several ventures fueled by technology tycoons clamoring to write Americas next chapter in spaceflight.
Their plans, unveiled Tuesday, call 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.
Allen, who teamed up with Rutan in 2004 to send the first privately financed, manned spacecraft into space, said his new project would keep America at the forefront of space exploration and give a new generation of children something to dream about.
We have plenty and many challenges ahead of us, he said at a news conference.
Allen and Rutan join a field crowded with Silicon Valley veterans who grew up on Star Trek and now want to fill a void created with the retirement of NASAs space shuttle. Several companies are competing to develop spacecraft to deliver cargo and astronauts to the International Space Station.
Allen bemoaned the fact that government-sponsored spaceflight is waning.
When I was growing up, Americas space program was the symbol of aspiration, he said. For me, the fascination with space never ended. I never stopped dreaming what might be possible.
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 dash into space in 2004 and later won the $10 million Ansari X Prize for accomplishing the feat twice in two weeks.
(Excerpt) Read more at seattle.cbslocal.com ...
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..............That's a monster plane !!!
The Graf Zeppelin had a total lift capacity of 87,000 kilograms (191,800 lbs) with a usable payload of 15,000 kg (33,000 lbs) on a 10,000 km (6,200 mi) flight.
Another older rocket company, Orbital Sciences Corp., uses this method for unmanned rockets to launch satellites.
I remember when Orbital Sciences was banned from the Eastern Space and Missile Center aka Cape Canaveral when they violated a Range Safety hold and launched anyway. It was many years before they were allowed to come back again.
With that being said I wish Rutan and Allen all the best.
>> The rockets will eventually carry people... it will blast into orbit after the plane climbs high into the atmosphere.
Microsoft’s initial manned flights will be full of Apple employees... one way.
If THAT works out the way Gates plans, Microsoft will expand the program to include Google employees, too. :-)
Unmanned spaceflight still is.
That would be one big son of a gun!
As usual, CBS is late with the news because I read about this several weeks ago. I wish Paul and Burt luck and hope they succeed. What they’re doing is what America is all about -innovation, experimentation and betting your ass, along with your fortune, that you’ll be successful.
I think we’re gonna need a bigger airstrip...
Damn history rerun: http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hughes_H-4_Hercules
Microsoft, doing what NASA used to do........
Nice, but I think SpaceX, started by the owner of PayPal, has a good viable business plan for cheap access to space. They even have a completely reusable design they will attempt to build that will reuse more components than this design will.
If its a Microsoft product, I’m not getting on it until at least Service Pack 2 is deployed.
Here's the photo of scale models of the Hugh's "Spruce Goose" and the Douglas DC-3.
Hope he paints the plain blue.
Given Microsoft’s record in the field of tech, it’ll be the (wait for it)
Blue Plane of Death.
YouTube link showing all:
Argh, too much wine.
I’ve become an Obamaloon.
That’s obviously “plane”, not “plain”.
Although everything from that company is most certainly plain.
Oh great, I can see it now. Hope Rutan’s patience can hold up, with Stratolaunch 1.0, 1.1.5, 2.0, replacement Improvedlaunch 1.0, 1.1.5, 2.0, 2.5.1, 2.5.2, replacement EvenBetterlaunch 1.0, 1.1, 2.0 and four other refinements within three years and two months.
“If Improvedlaunch doesn’t work when you boot up, just shut down and try again.”
“O.S. not found. Please refer to your owner’s manual.”
“You are not authorized as the manager of your equipment. Please contact your administrator.”
“Your system has experienced an error, and is being shut down to save your life. Please open the windows and flap your arms like hell!”
yep...the “Spruce Goose”...made of wood with a wingspan of 320 feet...currently the record and first flew in 1947!!!! AMAZING...having a plane that size now does not seem like such a feat...but using it to launch a rocket is a good idea.
“This method saves money by not using rocket fuel to get off the ground.”
I see. It will use ‘jet fuel’ to loft the giant plane and it’s giant cargo (the capsule riding along for the ride).
Given the combined weight and given that the capsule-vehicle must still carry its own fuel to “blast” above the altitude to which it is delivered by the plane, and the plane must also carry enough fuel to return to land; is the “fuel savings” the greatest “savings”?
I would think the biggest savings would be in the reusability of the launch plane, because even though a “rocket launch pad” may not be needed, I would expect new and separate take-off and landing facilities for the behemoth plane would be needed; putting into question any “savings” from not needing a “rocket launch pad”.
Actually, Space X is a partner, they will be providing the rocket stages of this launch system.
I’d rather he build a space elevator
But maybe Rutan's plane is an intermediate step, if the rocket section can also be reused.
Paul Allen has a $$$hitload of money to burn through, this could work!
And I meant to add, it is great to see a new space race developing.
The savings will be that it has an airbreathing engine instead of a rocket for the first stage. So, it won’t have to have an oxidizer (typically liquid oxygen) as part of its liftoff weight, since it will extract the oxygen from the atmosphere. This is a big weight savings.
Also, it will have more lift than a typical rocket. A rocket basically punches through the air, whereas a plane is more efficient directing the air around it.
In other words,fuel for the plane but not the rocket right? The rocket would be able to carry more payload vs. fuel?
Not only could those good old boys fight wars, but they could build stuff also.
Also you are converting low speed horizontal thrust into vertical lift with the use of wings. That’s quite a savings compared to he need for overcoming gravity by pure vertical lift. Your time to orbit is substantially increased, but so what? It isn’t a race.
I do have a problem grasping the idea that retro-rocket re-entry is somehow cheaper/easier than using a parachute. I guess the extra cost and complexity of a parachute subsystem is more than the extra fuel costs involved with powered return. Still way cool.
Not exactly. A rocket requires fuel and an oxidizer. A jet engine only requires fuel, and gets its oxygen from the atmosphere. The Rutan design is a two-stage vehicle. The first uses the jet engine, so no need for oxidizer (and ancillary container), which significantly reduces the weight of the first stage. The second stage is a traditional rocket, still requiring fuel/oxidizer.
You explained it much better than I did in Post #29.
I've said this before and I'll say it again.
There's nothing that can be done by people in space that can't be done cheaper and faster by people right here on Earth.
All of the technology we've gained has come from going into space. Nothing has come from people actually being in space.
Our foray into space so far is more like the Vikings travels to North America than Columbus' voyages to the Caribbeans. Until we have spent more time in space, your assertion will hold true.
Will it be running Win95 or Vista?
I wish them all the best but for Allen this could prove the old adage:
It’s easy to make a small fortune. You just start with a large one and...
Yeah, but why would I want to go into space. It’s not as though there’s really anything to go to at this point.
My father, (RIP) was fishing off the docks in Long Beach Harbor the day the “Spruce Goose” was taken out by Howard Hughes. My Grandfather worked for Hughes Aircraft, and his wife my Grandmother worked for Douglas and built DC-3’s all the way up to DC-10’s right before she retired.
I can’t imagine the changes they witnessed during their lifetimes. From sharecropping in Mississippi to machining parts for the moon landing.
I agree. If space can be a tourist destination, fine. Tourism is a huge industry. Developing it will spawn other industries.
As for space exploration, continue to use unmanned probes. They just discovered gypsum on Mars. If we eventually find fossils on Mars, and I think we will; mount a manned mission. Or at least return some samples.
The surface of Europa needs to be drilled. If there is liquid water below, it likely contains life. This can be done with unmanned probes.
When the moon landings ended in 1972, going there was becoming routine. The astronauts were like scientists in Antartica. Most of us will never go there, they may find some things that are interesting.
In the meantime, I have work to do.
I don’t think it is the parachute that is the expense, rather that the water landings the parachutes require. Spacex says the corrosion from the salt water landings for the space shuttle’s solid rocket boosters made refurbishing them as expensive as just scrapping and building new ones. That’s why the design is to have all components land back on land. If they could do that with a parachute, they probably would consider it.
The question is, is there enough paid cargo to make money?
Interestingly, some of the earliest speculations about Sputnik 1 is that it was launched by a similar airplane/launch rocket set-up. Things do have a way of coming full circle.
An an example, for hydrogen/oxygen fueled rockets, the oxygen accounts for 89% of the fuel weight. Using atmospheric oxygen is a BIG weight saving.
Hey, FRiend I appreciate your input; you get it.
Pioneers, in whatever they do, are America. They’re the best. That’s why I have faith in Americans to beat obuma to the ground and send him to the trash heap.
Semper fi, buddy. Best wishes to you and yours.
"The Earth is just too small and fragile a basket for the human race to keep all its eggs in" -- Robert Heinlein.
There will come a point where having colonies well away from Earth may be the only way to ensure the survival of the human race. Colonies which are just too far away for "illegal immigrants" to try to get to.