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article imageStratolaunch cuts back operations, dropping rocket plans

By Karen Graham     Jan 24, 2019 in Business
Stratolaunch, the private spaceflight company building the world's largest and, perhaps, most bizarre-looking airplane, is scaling back its operations. More than 50 employees will be laid off as part of the company's "streamlining" plan.
The news comes just two weeks after Stratolaunch announced that its airplane, the largest in the world by wingspan, performed its fastest taxi test to date at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California, reaching a top speed of 219 kilometers per hour (136 miles per hour).
In an emailed statement, Stratolaunch told Geek Wire it was discontinuing its programs to develop a new type of rocket engine and a new line of rockets, but will continue to work on its huge, double-bodied plane designed to serve as a flying launch pad for rockets.
“Stratolaunch is ending the development of their family of launch vehicles and rocket engine. We are streamlining operations, focusing on the aircraft and our ability to support a demonstration launch of the Northrop Grumman Pegasus XL air-launch vehicle. We are immensely proud of what we have accomplished and look forward to a first flight in 2019," read the email.
Stratolaunch will be able to launch rockets from a high altitude  presenting an alternative to conve...
Stratolaunch will be able to launch rockets from a high altitude, presenting an alternative to conventional ground launches.
Stratolaunch Systems Corp.
Streamlining operations
While Stratolaunch did not comment any further on the news, sources who are not employed by the company, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Geek Wire more than 50 employees were being laid off as part of the streamlining plan.
According to the sources, about 20 employees will be staying on to get the plane ready for its first flight. When the plane is ready to be airborne, it will take 18 to 24 months of test flights before it can receive an airworthiness certificate from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) before the plane would be ready to serve as an air-launch platform.
The company is scrapping its plans for its own own launch vehicle, called the Medium Launch Vehicle (MLV). The MLV would have been a new medium-class air-launch vehicle, capable of placing 3,400 kilograms into low Earth orbit. They had planned to launch the MLV in 2022.
Stratolaunch has also been working developing the PGA, a rocket engine that uses liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen propellants, capable of producing 200,000 pounds-force of thrust. The engine takes its name from the initials for Paul G. Allen, the founder of Stratolaunch. This project has also been scrapped.
More about stratolaunch, scaleback, rocket plans, Layoffs
 
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