Stratolaunch ditches development plans for its own launch vehicles

by | Jan 24, 2019 | commercial launch services, Seradata News

When Stratolaunch announced that it was developing its own range of launch vehicles in addition to its very large double hulled carrier aircraft, many analysts remained sceptical – mainly over the amount of money this would take. This was despite the fact that it had founder and billionaire Paul Allen behind them.  However, his death has removed this plan’s main driving force – and finance –  and so the firm has now formally decided to stop any design and development of vehicles to fly from their already-developed carrier vehicle.  As it did so it has reportedly (according to Geekwire) laid off 30 from its workforce of 50.  The firm still intends to use the vehicle to launch the Pegasus XL rocket – originally developed by Orbital Sciences Corp (which became Orbital ATK and now Northrop Grumman) –  and hopes that other launch vehicles will take advantage of their air launch service.

Comment by David Todd:  One of the problems with air launch is that the utilisation of any expensive-to-maintain-and-store carrier aircraft is usually very low – to the detriment of its economics. Orbital Sciences found this out with the cost of its L1011 Tristar airliner carrier for its Pegasus XL. If Stratolaunch could become the “go to” carrier aircraft for other launch vehicles then it could have a good business.  The “If you build it, they will come” concept is being tested however.  Pegasus XL is now in the twilight of its career – especially given its high launch cost – and will thus not provide enough business.  And so Stratolaunch needs other rockets to use its carrier aircraft – and fast – if it is to survive.

Stratolaunch’s carrier aircraft with its various launch vehicle design concepts. Courtesy: Stratolaunch


About Seradata

Seradata produce the renowned SpaceTrak Launch & Satellite Database. Trusted by 100 of the world’s leading Space organisations, SpaceTrak is a fully queryable database used for market analysis, failure/risk assessment, spectrum analysis and space situational awareness (SSA).

For more information go to

Related Articles

Air-Launch back in vogue as Exolaunch signs MoU with Virgin Orbit while Stratolaunch jet makes first flight

The German-based launch arranger Exolaunch (formerly known as ECM Space) has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with start-up launch Read more

On a sadder note: Co-founder of Microsoft and space investor Paul Allen dies at 65…as does Nazi nuclear plan saboteur Joachim Ronneberg

The Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma form of cancer finally claimed the life of Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft with Bill Gates, at the Read more

Orbital ATK to supply Pegasus launchers to Stratolaunch

Stratolaunch Systems and Orbital ATK announced, on 6 October, that Orbital would be supplying Pegasus XL air-launch vehicles for use Read more

ICON to fly on Pegasus air-dropped launch vehicle

NASA  has announced firm-fixed price launch services agreement with Orbital Sciences Corp for the launch of its ICON on board a Read more

Pegasus XL is selected for CYGNSS eight-sat mission

NASA has announced that its Cyclone Global Navigation Satellite System (CYGNSS) will be launched by an air-launched Orbital Sciences Corp' Read more

From South Korea to the Moon: “Danuri” launches successfully

SpaceX successfully launched a Falcon 9v1.2FT Block 5 rocket from Cape Canaveral, USA at 2308 GMT on 4 August. The Read more

End of the line for Astra Rocket 3.3 design as company moves on to bigger rocket

According the success/failure ratio on the Seradata SpaceTrak database, the Astra Rocket 3 series cannot be called a reliable launch Read more