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Allen, Rutan unveil air launch project
Posted: Wed, Dec 14, 2011, 7:49 AM ET (1249 GMT)
Stratolaunch Systems illustration A new venture announced Tuesday will reunite famed designer Burt Rutan and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen to develop an air-launch system on a scale never before attempted. Stratolaunch Systems plans to build the world's largest aircraft, a dual-fuselage aircraft powered by six 747 jet engines, that will carry aloft a rocket derived from the SpaceX Falcon 9. This system would be able to place payloads weighing up to 6,100 kilograms (13,500 pounds) into orbit, taking off from any airport with a runway at least 3,650 meters (12,000 feet) long. Scaled Composites will build the aircraft and SpaceX the launcher, with Dynetics developing a mating and integration system for the rocket/aircraft combination. The project is being financially supported by Paul Allen, who also funded the development of Scaled's prize-winning SpaceShinOne/WhiteKnight air-launched suborbital system. The company hopes to perform the first launch by 2016; launch prices have not been disclosed.
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