The airline founded by Paul Allen, Stratolaunch, is terminated according to a report by Reuters quoting anonymous sources. The company will cease its efforts to challenge traditional airlines in a new "spaceflight", four people acquainted with the case told the management.
In response to an inquiry from Ars about potentially closing operations, a spokeswoman for Seattle-based company replied, "We have no news or announcements to share at this time. Stratolaunch remains operational."
Questions about Stratolaunch's future occurred almost immediately after Allen's co-founder of Microsoft died in October 2018, at the age of 65. According to Reuters, the decision to set an exit strategy was made late last year by Allen's sister, Jody Allen. In January, Stratolaunch left the effort to build a series of rockets to be launched from its large transport aircraft – a creepy sign.
This threw a pallet over the plane's first flight. With a 384-foot wing stick, this largest aircraft in the world took flight in April after eight years of development. "All of you have been very patient and very tolerant over the years waiting for us to get this big bird off the ground and we did it finally," said Strat Floyd's CEO Jean Floyd to journalists at the time. The company reported that the aircraft reached speeds of 189mph and altitudes of 17,000 feet during a 150-minute test flight before landing safely in the Mojave Air and Space Port. But it hasn't flown since.
In 2011, through the development of the large Stratolaunch plane, Allen founded the company of childhood dreams of spaceflight and a desire to reduce the cost of access to space – it has not been clear why such a large aircraft was needed to start relatively small rockets. Stratolaunch had been contracted to launch the Pegasus rocket, developed by Northrop Grumman, which has a capacity of about 450kg for low-ground orbit.
A competitor, Virgin Orbit, is much closer to the market with its launch system. The company uses a modified 747 aircraft named Cosmic Girl and it is expected to start commercial service with its LauncherOne rocket later this year. This rocket has a capacity of about 500kg to low ground circumference.
It now looks as if the Stratolaunch plane can really be the second coming to the [SpruceGoose plane. Built in 1947 as a pre-eminent project by eccentric business magnate Howard Hughes, this plane just flew a mile in height at less than 100 feet before appearing at the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum in Oregon. It had a wing of 320 feet.
Listed image of Stratolaunch