Stratolaunch under new ownership

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The Stratolaunch aircraft during its first flight April 13, 2019, at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California. Stratolaunch announced a ‘transition in ownership” Oct. 11, but did not say who the new owners were. (Stratolaunch photograph)

In a company statement issued Oct. 11, Stratolaunch announced it has “transitioned ownership and is continuing regular operations.”

At the same time, Scaled Composites issued a statement announcing the transfer of the Stratolaunch aircraft to Stratolaunch Corporation.

Scaled Composites was contracted in 2011 to design, build and test the world’s largest aircraft by wingspan.

“Having accomplished these goals successfully, the Scaled team has transitioned the vehicle and associated knowledge to the Stratolaunch team,” Scaled said in its own release Oct. 11. “Scaled wishes Stratolaunch success as it continues to work towards commercial operation of its launch system.”

The announcement came a year after the death of company founder Paul Allen.

Few details about the change in ownership were available, including who the new owners are.

The company did say, in its release, that “Our near-term launch vehicle development strategy focuses on providing customizable, reusable, and affordable rocket-powered testbed vehicles and associated flight services.

“As we continue on our mission, Stratolaunch will bring the carrier aircraft test and operations program fully in-house.  We thank Vulcan Inc and Scaled Composites for turning an ambitious idea into a flight-proven aircraft.”

The Stratolaunch aircraft lands at the Mojave Air and Space Port April 13, 2019, following its first flight. On Oct. 11, the company announced a “transition in ownership” but did not specify who the new owners are. The same day, Scaled Composites, who built the aircraft, announced they had transferred ownership of the aircraft to Stratolaunch LLC. (Stratolaunch photograph)

Vulcan Inc., Allen’s holding company, was Stratolaunch’s previous owner.

The twin-fuselage aircraft completed its first, and to date only, test flight on April 13, 2019, over California’s Mojave Desert. Since then, it has been stored in a hangar at the Mojave Air and Space Port. Following Allen’s death, and the first flight, there had been media speculation that the company’s assets were for sale, or that the company was closing down.

Previously, Stratolaunch had bought two Pegasus XL satellite launchers from Northrop Grumman, with plans to conduct demonstration flights as early as 2020. Northrop Grumman said early last that the company had bought the two Pegasus rockets back from Stratolaunch.

Northrop Grumman is also the owner of Scaled Composites.

The flying launch pad is powered by six engines and has a wing span of 385 feet, or 117 meters.

The air-launched Pegasus rocket has flown 44 times since 1990. It’s dropped from Northrop Grumman’s own carrier jet, a modified L-1011 named “Stargazer.”

Stratolaunch had said its larger carrier aircraft could accommodate up to three Pegasus rockets on a single flight, while the L-1011 carries one at a time.