Billionaire Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen is not one of the most famous names currently involved in the so-called "Billionaire Space Race." But he's recently revealed new information on a project that might raise his profile just a little bit: the Stratolaunch mobile launch platform, which also happens to be the world's biggest airplane. This craft will allow rockets to get a head start into space by launching from the air. Jean Floyd is the Chief Executive Officer at the Stratolaunch Systems Corp company, quoted like so in its official press release announcing the new launch vehicles:
"We are excited to share for the first time some details about the development of our own, proprietary Stratolaunch launch vehicles, with which we will offer a flexible launch capability unlike any other. Whatever the payload, whatever the orbit, getting your satellite into space will soon be as easy as booking an airline flight."
Precise specs on the Stratolaunch aren't being released yet, but it will reportedly have a wingspan that extends farther than a football field, as per an NBC report. And the plan is for rockets to be kept underneath the wings and launched into space at altitudes of 35,000 feet.
While the Stratolaunch, which is still in development, will purportedly be the largest craft of its kind, it will not be the first. The air launching technique is also the domain of Northrop Grumman, which recently launched a 55-foot craft called the Pegasus from a jumbo jet that was modified to do that particular job. Stratolaunch Systems wants to do the same, pledging to launch Pegasus rockets from its mobile platform by 2020, with its own larger and higher-capacity medium-launch vehicles to follow in 2022.
Launching rockets from the air has its own advantages due to increased flexibility and mobility, and Stratolaunch hopes it will also reduce the cost and hassle of space launches, eventually making satellite launches "as easy as booking an airline flight."