Bloomberg News

Paul Allen Aims for Orbit With New Private Spaceflight Venture

December 15, 2011

Dec. 13 (Bloomberg) -- Paul Allen is getting back into the space business with a private venture to build a launch system for commercial travel beyond Earth’s atmosphere.

The Microsoft Corp. co-founder said his new company, Stratolaunch Systems, will bring “airport-like operations” to space flights, including eventual human missions. The first flight is planned within five years, Huntsville, Alabama-based Stratolaunch said today in a statement.

Allen, 58, is teaming up again for the venture with Burt Rutan, an aerospace engineer with whom he worked to develop SpaceShipOne. Rutan’s craft was the first privately funded, manned rocket to fly into space.

“We are at the dawn of radical change in the space launch industry,” Allen said in the statement. “Stratolaunch Systems is pioneering an innovative solution that will revolutionize space travel.”

The company’s so-called air-launch system will feature three components: a plane built by Scaled Composites LLC, the company founded by Rutan; a multi-stage booster rocket based on the Falcon 9 built by Space Exploration Technologies Corp., also known as SpaceX; and an integration system built by Dynetics Inc.

The carrier aircraft will have a wingspan of more than 380 feet, use six engines from Boeing Co.’s 747 jumbo jet and require a 12,000-foot runway, Stratolaunch said.

Launching a rocket from a plane in flight will cut costs and improve safety over current ground-based technology, Stratolaunch said. That technique also will reduce turnaround time between flights, the company said.

In 2004, Allen and Scaled Composites won the $10 million Ansari X Prize after three successful suborbital flights of SpaceShipOne.

--Editors: Ed Dufner, Kevin Miller

To contact the reporters on this story: Brendan McGarry in Washington at; Susanna Ray in Seattle at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Mark Silva at; Ed Dufner at

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