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Soon, massive plane to carry passengers to space

Washington, Wed, 14 Dec 2011 ANI

Washington, Dec 14 (ANI): The co-founder of Microsoft has announced his plans of building a massive space plane that will be able to fly cargo and eventually people into orbit.


Paul Allen plans to spend around 200 million dollars on the air-launched rocket, built by SpaceX, and reunite with prototype SpaceShipOne builder Burt Rutan on the new space venture.


The company, called Stratolaunch Systems, plans to build a massive airplane that can tote a rocket high into the atmosphere before it is dropped for an independent ride into space.


The new six-engine craft will be the largest ever flown, weighing more than 1.2 million pounds with a wingspan of 385 feet, longer than a football field. In contrast, the wingspan for WhiteKnightTwo, the carrier aircraft for Virgin Galactic's commercial spaceship, is 141 feet.


The system is similar, though much larger, to SpaceShipTwo, a commercial successor to SpaceShipOne, which clinched the 10 million-dollar Ansari X Prize in 2004 for the first non-government human spaceflights.


"It's a great honour for me to be back working with Burt Rutan," Discovery News quoted Allen as saying.


According to Mike Griffin, a former NASA administrator, Stratolaunch expects to be able to launch medium-weight satellites and eventually crews of about six people at a time.


The firm's aircraft will be manufactured and tested at Scaled's facility in Mojave. A launch site has not yet been selected.


"The beauty of large turbofan airplane is it really meets the definition of re-usability," Rutan said.


"A typical 747 aircraft throughout its entire life spends somewhere between 12 or 15 hours a day airborne." he added. (ANI)


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