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Stratolaunch lays out roadmap for hypersonic planes

Stratolaunch hypersonic testbed
Stratolaunch’s swept-wing hypersonic testbed would be propelled by a rocket engine. (Stratolaunch Illustration)

Stratolaunch Systems, the aerospace company created by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, says it’s exploring the development of a series of rocket planes that would serve as a testbed for hypersonic flight.

Stephen Corda, Stratolaunch’s senior technical fellow for hypersonics, presented the concept this week at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics’ International Space Planes and Hypersonic Systems and Technologies conference in Orlando, Fla.

If Stratolaunch follows through on the concept, the company could use the world’s largest airplane as a launch platform for an uncrewed aerospace plane that travels at more than 10 times the speed of sound, or Mach 10.

Hypersonic vehicles rank among the top technological frontiers for Pentagon officials, who have sounded the alarm about hypersonic weapon development programs in Russia and China. But it’s not yet clear whether Stratolaunch will join the hypersonic aerospace race.

Get the full story on GeekWire.

By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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