Stratolaunch Backer Says It Remains Committed to Transforming Space Launch

Paul Allen and Burt Rutan
Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, right, confers with airplane designer Burt Rutan during the 2011 unveiling of the Stratolaunch concept. (Image credit: SpaceNews)

WASHINGTON — Paul Allen's Vulcan Aerospace is taking issue with reports that its Stratolaunch project is in jeopardy because of a market shift towards smaller satellites that don't require the massive mothership the company is building for an air-launched rocket.

A Nov. 17 Wall Street Journal story quotes Vulcan Aerospace President Chuck Beames saying Stratolaunch hasn't been shelved, but that the company is reassessing the project to determine "what's the best way forward." The story, citing unnamed aerospace industry officials, concludes that the market's shift toward smaller satellites "threaten [the project's] overall viability."

In a statement emailed to SpaceNews — which included a summary of the Journal's article in its daily briefing  Vulcan Aerospace said it  has not given up on low-cost, responsive launch:

Vulcan Aerospace remains steadfast in its mission to transform space transportation to low-Earth orbit by dramatically changing the current model of space launch. It is unfortunate that the recent, inaccurate, report by the Wall Street Journal implies, via unnamed sources, that this mission has wavered and is based on nothing more than rumors and speculation, not facts.

Today, space launch continues to be hampered by long delays and high costs, especially for the burgeoning class of space entrepreneurs.  To best serve the variety of space operators with more convenient and less expensive options, we envision affording the satellite operator multiple launch vehicle options with varying payload capabilities. An effort of this scope and ambition is a massive undertaking and takes time to develop. We are unwavering in our commitment to its success and expect to achieve additional milestones in 2016, as we continue to advance against our original timeline of being fully in service by the end of the decade.

This story was provided by SpaceNews, dedicated to covering all aspects of the space industry.

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Editor-in-Chief, SpaceNews

Brian Berger is the Editor-in-Chief of SpaceNews, a bi-weekly space industry news magazine, and He joined SpaceNews covering NASA in 1998 and was named Senior Staff Writer in 2004 before becoming Deputy Editor in 2008. Brian's reporting on NASA's 2003 Columbia space shuttle accident and received the Communications Award from the National Space Club Huntsville Chapter in 2019. Brian received a bachelor's degree in magazine production and editing from Ohio University's E.W. Scripps School of Journalism.