This is not a fantasy project. This is going to be real: a gigantic 385-foot wing span, 544-tonne plane powered by six 747 engines that will serve as a flying launch platform for 490,000 pound orbital rockets.
It's the new project of Paul Allen and Burt Rutan. And it looks insanely amazing.
How does it work?
The giant mothership, which brings memories of the giganormous Howard Hughes' H-4 Hercules "Spruce Goose", will take SpaceX rocket launchers up to 9,400 miles up in the sky, with a range of 1,300 nautical miles. From there, the mother ship will drop the rocket, which will fire up into orbit. The rocket will be able to deliver a total of 13,500 pounds of cargo up to orbit, including manned spaceships.
Why a flying launch platform?
According to the company, it will save everyone a lot of money. It will minimize the cost of the launch and minimize risks. They claim it will be more energy efficient and it will not depend as much on weather constrains as traditional launch methods.
Who is behind this project?
Paul G. Allen is the Microsoft founder, hyperbillionaire and investor on many weird and wonderful ventures, including the SETI Institute's Allen Telescope Array and SpaceShipOne, the ship that made the first private suborbital flight. Rutan built that ship, as well as its mothership, WhiteKnightOne and the 2.0 versions for Virgin Galactic: WhiteKnightTwo and SpaceShipTwo. He is the legendary aircraft designer and founder of Scaled Composites, now located at the Mojave Spaceport, California.