Daily Management Review

Debut of World’s Largest Plane by Paul Allen's Space Company Nears


Debut of World’s Largest Plane by Paul Allen's Space Company Nears
By launching satellites into orbit from the world’s biggest airplane, a space launch company bankrolled by Microsoft Corp co-founder Paul Allen intends to compete with space entrepreneurs and industry stalwarts.
A first look at the nearly finished aircraft was given by last week to reporters by Stratolaunch Systems, a unit of Allen’s privately owned Vulcan Aerospace.
Howard Hughes’ 1947 H-4 Hercules, known as the “Spruce Goose,” and the Antonov An-225, a Soviet-era cargo plane originally built to transport the Buran space shuttle that is currently the world’s largest aircraft would are smaller in size in comparison to the six-engine plane with a wingspan of 385 feet (117 m).
Utilizing the networks of hundreds of satellites in low-altitude orbits around Earth, the business of selling Internet access, Earth imagery, climate data and other services is surging and Allen's move coincides with that surge.
Other companies like Elon Musk’s SpaceX, Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic have the vision of building commercial highways to space, but the vision of Allen is different from these companies.
While Branson is focused on space tourism and a small satellite launcher, Bezos is developing low-cost, reusable rockets with the goal of moving energy-intensive, heavy industry off Earth and Musk’s goal is to fly people to Mars.

Chuck Beames, who oversees Allen’s space ventures, said that the company intends to overcome launch range scheduling issues and weather-related delays and aims to position the plane so satellites can be directly delivered into very precise orbits quickly. This according to him is the advantage of Allen's approach.
Stratolaunch is a twin-fuselage craft that incorporates engines, landing gear, avionics and other parts from a pair of Boeing 747 jets coupled with a frame, wings and skin handmade of lightweight composites and is transporting heavy cargo inside a main body section and it looks nothing like its behemoth predecessor aircraft.
The plane is similar in form and function to Scaled's aircraft built to ferry spaceships into the air and release them for independent rocket rides beyond the atmosphere and was designed and built by Northrop Grumman Corp’s Scaled Composites.
Companies including SpaceX and Google’s Terra Bella are aiming to launch low-Earth orbiting multi-hundred satellite constellations to provide internet access, Earth imagery and other data and Stratolaunch plans a similar service for such satellites. However the service that will set Stratolaunch apart from competitors is quick and precise satellite positioning.
According to a Satellite Industry Association report, the global satellite industry reported more than $208 billion in revenue 2015 and these satellite networks, based on low-cost spacecraft, are the fastest-growing segment of the industry.
A perspective of the dimensions of the vehicle can be had from walking across the Stratolaunch plane's wings.
“You could fit a football field up here,” said Beames.
With the engines, landing gear and one tail section still to be installed, assembly of the plane is 76 percent complete. While Commercial services are expected to begin before 2020, the plane is expected to be finished before the end of the year.