Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen’s Stratolaunch Systems has renewed its partnership with Orbital ATK on a platform that will make use of the world’s biggest airplane to launch rockets into orbit.
Allen started up Stratolaunch five years ago, and since then the venture has been developing a 385-foot-wide, twin-fuselage airplane inside a giant hangar at Mojave Air and Space Port in California. The company, which is part of Allen’s Vulcan Aerospace group, aims to start launching payloads by 2020.
Stratolaunch teamed up with Orbital Sciences Corp. back in 2012, with the idea of having Orbital supply rockets that would be launched from the airplane in mid-flight. Since then, Orbital merged with ATK, and Stratolaunch had to rethink its partnerships amid the changing market for launch services.
Today, the two companies announced that they’ve forged a multi-year, production-based partnership, under which Orbital ATK will provide its Pegasus XL rockets for Stratolaunch’s system.