Allen of MS unveils space travel plans
WASHINGTON A GIANT airplane that can in mid-flight launch a rocket carrying cargo and humans into orbit is the future of space travel, billionaire philanthropist and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen said on Tuesday.
The first test flight of the ambitious venture by Allen’s new company Stratolaunch Systems is not scheduled until 2015, but partners in the project vowed it would revolutionise orbital travel in the post-space shuttle era.
Using engines from six Boeing 747 jets, the biggest airliner ever built would tote a rocket made by SpaceX and be able to launch payloads, satellites, and some day, humans, into low-Earth orbit, said Allen, 58.
While he declined to say how much he was investing, Allen said it would be more than he spent on SpaceShipOne, which in 2004 was the first commercial craft to complete a suborbital flight and reportedly cost about $25 million to develop.
“For the first time since John Glenn, America cannot fly its own astronauts into space,” Allen told reporters, referring to the US space shuttle’s retirement this year and the first American to orbit the Earth aboard Mercury 7 in 1962.