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Technology & Innovation

A Tycoon’s Wild Space Investment

Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen is putting up his own money to build the next Spruce Goose: A plane that will launch satellites—and eventually people—into Earth’s orbit from 30,000 feet.

What’s the Latest Development?

Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen has just announced his plans to design and build a revolutionary airplane which will be one of the biggest projects in the budding private space industry. Rather than launch rockets carrying satellites and humans from the ground, the plane will carry rockets to 30,000 feet and then drop them. “The rocket’s engines will then ignite and the tail fins will turn the rocket’s direction upward.” The plane will be larger than Howard Hughes’ Spruce Goose and have a wingspan greater than the length of a football field.

What’s the Big Idea?

Allen will work closely with legendary engineer Burt Rutan, and his company Scaled Composites, to make the plane, called Stratolaunch. The two previously collaborated on Space Ship One, for which they were awarded the $10 million Ansari X Prize. That project was the first iteration of what would become Richard Branson’s Space Ship Two, the space tourism vehicle that is gearing up for launch. “With government-funded spaceflight diminishing, there is a much expanded opportunity for privately funded efforts,” Mr. Allen said.

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