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Stratolaunch carrier aircraft
Role Space Launch Carrier
National origin United States of America
Manufacturer Scaled Composites
First flight projected for 2016
Status In development
Number built 0

The Stratolaunch carrier aircraft,[1] Scaled Composites Model 351 Roc,[2][NB 1] is an aircraft currently under development by Scaled Composites to provide air-launch capability for Stratolaunch Systems.[3] With a wingspan of 117 m (385 ft), the design has the longest wingspan of any airplane to date as of January 2012.


The project was started nearly a year prior to the December 2011 public announcement. Dynetics began work in early 2011, and had approximately 40 employees working on the project at the time of the announcement, as of December 2011. SpaceX efforts began only shortly prior to the public announcement.[4]

In January 2012, Stratolaunch CEO Gary Wentz made it explicit that Stratolaunch would name the carrier aircraft only later. The "mothership is currently known only by its Scaled model number: M351."[5]

Construction progress on the giant hangar being built in Mojave, California for the Stratolaunch Carrier Aircraft was given in an October 2012 story at Parabolic Arc.[6] The first of two manufacturing buildings, the "88,000 square foot facility [to] be used to construct the composite sections of the wing and fuselage sections" was opened for production in October 2012, two months ahead of schedule and on budget.[7]

In October 2013, the first flight of the carrier aircraft was expected in 2016, with the first flight of the air-launched rocket in 2018.[8]

As of April 2015, the aircraft was 40% complete, with fabrication of parts at 80%.[9]


At a December 13, 2011 press conference in Seattle, Washington, Paul Allen announced that Scaled Composites would produce the largest aircraft ever constructed for Stratolaunch Systems.[10] Construction is planned to be done at a new 200,000 square feet (19,000 m2) facility to be built at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California.[11][12] Between February and March 2012, Stratolaunch flew two used Boeing 747-400s, purchased from United Airlines, to the Mojave Air and Space Port.[5][13]


The Roc has a layout similar to the Scaled Composites White Knight Two. It features two main fuselage sections joined with a common wing with a centrally mounted Mating and Integration System (MIS) capable of handling a 230,000 kg (500,000 lb) load and being developed by Dynetics. Each fuselage has its own horizontal and vertical stabilizer. Three engines are positioned on pylons outboard of each fuselage. The cockpit is positioned within the right fuselage.[14]

The aircraft will be powered by six 56,000 lbf (250 kN) Pratt & Whitney PW4056 engines[15] that were obtained from "two used 747-400s that will be cannibalized for engines, avionics, flight deck, landing gear and other proven systems that can be recycled to cut development costs."[4] As of April 2012, two former United Airlines Boeing 747-400 aircraft (Serial numbers 28715 & 28716) have been acquired and are currently stored at the Mojave Air & Space Port.[16]

The primary launch cargo was originally slated be a multistage booster developed by SpaceX. However in December 2012 Stratolaunch announced that they had amicably parted company with SpaceX due to the design evolving away from a good fit with SpaceX's long-term business model. In late 2012 and early 2013, Stratolaunch worked with Orbital Sciences Corporation to develop an alternative rocket conceptual design.[17] By May 2013, Orbital was under contract to develop the Pegasus II for Stratolaunch, with a payload of 6,100 kg (13,500 pounds).[18]

World's longest wingspan[edit]

Allen and aircraft initial[19] concept designer Burt Rutan stated that the carrier aircraft would have a wingspan of 117 m (385 ft),[20] This would make it the largest airplane, by wingspan, to ever fly.[21]

Specifications (Stratolaunch Systems Carrier)[edit]

Wingspan comparison of the Stratolaunch carrier with other large airplanes

Data from EAA

General characteristics

  • Wingspan: 385 ft (117 m)
  • Gross weight: 1,200,000 lb (544,311 kg)
  • Powerplant: 6 × 59,500–63,300 lbf (265–282 kN) thrust range[22] turbofan engines planned to be sourced from two Boeing 747-400s[1][5]


See also[edit]

Related development


  1. ^ It is named Roc after the mythical bird, due to its wingspan.


  1. ^ a b "Stratolaunch Systems Press Faq" (PDF). Retrieved December 15, 2011. 
  2. ^ Belfiore, Michael (April 2012). "Say Hello to Stratolaunch, the World's Largest Plane". popularmechanics.com. Retrieved 15 February 2015. ... it already has a nickname: the Roc, after the mythological bird big enough to carry away elephants for dinner. 
  3. ^ "Next Step to Space Allen, Rutan announce Stratolaunch Systems for commercial spaced launches". Retrieved 14 December 2011. 
  4. ^ a b Mecham, Michael; Frank Morring, Jr. (2011-12-20). "Allen Places Big Bet On Air Launches". Aviation Week. Retrieved 2011-12-23. Dynetics has been under contract to Vulcan for almost a year and has some 40 employees on the project so far. SpaceX joined more recently, and the overall team is still working through details of how to progress toward its 2016 first launch. 
  5. ^ a b c Belfiore, Michael (2012-01-05). "Stratolaunch: world’s biggest airplane to launch spaceships". Retrieved 2012-01-14. The mothership is currently known only by its Scaled model number: M351 ...[with design] planned for completion by late summer of next year ... [and to] begin flight testing in late 2015 in Mojave, with rocket test launches from the airplane to begin at Cape Canaveral in late 2016. 
  6. ^ Messier, Doug (2012-10-05). "Space Goose’s Nest Grows in the Mojave". Parabolic Arc. Retrieved 2012-10-07. 
  7. ^ Lindsay, Clark (2012-10-23). "Stratolaunch opens production facility at Mojave spaceport". NewSpace Watch. Retrieved 2012-10-27. (subscription required (help)). 
  8. ^ Norris, Guy (2013-10-04). "Stratolaunch quietly making progress". Aviation Week. Retrieved 2013-10-04. 
  9. ^ Patrick Clarke (17 April 2015). "Paul Allen Launches 'Vulcan Aerospace' to Enhance Space Travel". Travel Pulse. 
  10. ^ Dominic Gates (14 December 2011). "Paul Allen space venture begins with 'largest aircraft ever constructed'". The Seattle Times. 
  11. ^ "Stratolaunch Systems Signs Lease with Mojave Air and Space Port". Stratolaunch system. May 31, 2011. Retrieved 14 December 2011. 
  12. ^ Daniel Terdiman (13 December 2011). "Paul Allen's Stratolaunch: Grand plan for next-gen space travel". cnet.com. Cnet News. Retrieved 13 December 2011. 
  13. ^ "Stratolaunch News Page". 
  14. ^ W.J. Hennigan (14 December 2011). "Paul Allen to build behemoth plane for space launches". The Los Angeles Times. 
  15. ^ Mecham, Michael (2011-12-14). "Stratolaunch Aims to Break Affordability Barrier". Aviation Week (New York). Retrieved 2011-12-14. 
  16. ^ "Scaled Composites Fleet Details and History". Retrieved 7 May 2012. 
  17. ^ "Stratolaunch News Page". Retrieved 19 March 2013. 
  18. ^ Bergin, Chris (2013-05-25). "Stratolaunch and Orbital – The Height of Air Launch". NASA SpaceFlight. Retrieved 2013-05-24. 
  19. ^ Belfiore, Michael (2012-01-23). "Burt Rutan on Designing the World’s Largest Aircraft". Popular Mechanics. Retrieved 2012-01-20. In 1991, to address a requirement to launch a booster heavier than 500,000 pounds, [Rutan] did the Model 205 and 206 preliminary designs. ... "About 10 years ago, to encourage innovation and design responsibility among the young engineers at Scaled, I took on the status of design advisor, while the title of Principal Configuration Designer went to a very talented team of designers, including Jim Tighe, Cory Bird, Bob Morgan and others. Except for the Bipod roadable aircraft, all the airplanes designed at Scaled after SpaceShipOne were not Burt Rutan designs." 
  20. ^ Paur, Jason (2011-12-13). "Microsoft Billionaire Paul Allen Launches New Space Venture". Wired (New York). Archived from the original on 2011-12-14. Retrieved 2012-11-14. 
  21. ^ "Paul Allen to unveil Stratolaunch Systems today". newspacejournal.com. NewSpace Journal. 2011-12-13. Archived from the original on 2011-12-17. Retrieved 2011-12-13. 
  22. ^ 747 specifications, The Boeing Company. Retrieved December 16, 2007.

External links[edit]

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scaled_Composites_Stratolaunch — Please support Wikipedia.
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Wed, 05 Nov 2014 06:15:00 -0800

He backed the SpaceShipOne project along with the legendary but now retired aerospace engineer Burt Rutan, founder of Scaled Composites. Stratolaunch, started in 2011, is working on a carrier aircraft that looks like a scaled-up version of Virgin ...
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Fri, 19 Sep 2014 16:33:04 -0700

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