A new launch to low earth orbit system

Stratolaunch. I’ve often wondered why something like this hasn’t come down the pike before.


Here is an existing thread on it.


The idea has been around forever. Nobody followed up on it much earlier because rockets are simpler and everybody was more interested in getting people into space. Now, we are more interested in getting smaller payloads up there.

Well, Stratolaunch still uses a rocket. It is just deployed from an aircraft. As silenus notes it has been aound a long time and even provided the first purely commercial successful orbital launch system, the Orbital Sciences Corporation (now Orbital ATK) Pegasus. Although the image on Encyclopedia Astronautica shows one of the first flights when carried by B-52 on a wing hardpoint, all flights after F7 were deployed from a modified Lockheed L-1011 owned by Orbital and named the Stargazer as seen here. The Pegasus turned out to be technically successful after some initial teething problems but was not the low cost launch system which was hoped would jumpstart the commercial small satellite space industry, and in fact is one of the most expensive launchers per unit mass of payload, though still overall cheaper for a single payload than many other higher performance options.

It is unclear what Statrolaunch has which they believe will distinguish their capability from other offerings, and they have had a tortured path to booster development, going from a modified Falcon 9 to an Orbital proposed “Pegasus II” and through many other concepts, but unless they are seriously cheaper can can offer faster turnaround from manifest to launch it seems unlikely to be competitive even if it demonstates technical viability with whatever booster system they end up flying.