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  • 25

Paul Allen’s giant plane takes shape in the desert, but its market is unclear

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Twin fuselage, wingspan larger than the Spruce Goose, designed to release a 275 ton rocket at 35,000 ft for launch into space. Fanciful planning, but will it fly? (www.seattletimes.com) Mehr...

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jordanabrown
Alan Brown 2
This story kind of reminds me of the German Gigant aircraft from WW II. Started as a huge towed glider, then they added 6 engines to make it a transport. It was the largest transport of WW II. Unfortunately, it was also the easiest target of WW II. Not a big success.
Decibel
Jim Nasby 2
A Pegasus XL weighs ~25.5T and can launch 443kg to orbit. Scale that up to 275T and you're only talking a 4700kg payload, which isn't all that much. A $62M Falcon 9 launch gives you 22,000kg.
skylab72
skylab72 2
$ of fuel per ton in orbit?
Decibel
Jim Nasby 2
Compared to everything else, the cost of fuel for putting things in orbit might as well be $0. Elon Musk has stated that for a Falcon 9, it's on the order of $300-400k (I don't remember if that's just first stage or entire rocket).

The only real value to air launch is if you can eliminate the need for a first stage. That used to be a huge consideration, but now that reusable first stage is inevitable it's far less interesting.

I suspect that the Jet-A cost for a launch from this airplane will be less than $300k, but it's still going to be a drop in the bucket compared to the cost of the rocket that's still getting thrown away. When someone figures out a good way to reuse the rest of the rocket, then maybe this will make more sense.

Interestingly, with the advent of CubeSats, there might now be a market for a *small* air-launch system. Planet Labs has stated that they'd really like the ability to do dedicated CubeSat launches, and if memory serves the number they talked about was $1M/launch. Maybe that market would be best served by an air launch.
kiwipop
Geoff Arkley 2
You can't get there from here. Then again, maybe you can!
skylab72
skylab72 2
Blue Origin and SpaceX both have reusable first stage rockets but you can not "eliminate the need for a first stage". Allen just thinks that an air breathing first stage should prove more efficient in the long run, thus my dollar efficiency question. These first stages are both machines they both suffer wear in use and the goal is to lift tonnage to orbit. I assume the machinery will continuously be improved, so the issue is conversion of dollars to orbital kinetic energy.

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