An artist’s conception shows Stratolaunch’s PGA rocket engine. (Stratolaunch Illustration)
The name of Stratolaunch Systems’ home-grown rocket engine leaves no doubt about who’s footing the bill: It’s called the PGA, as in Microsoft co-founder Paul G. Allen.
Stratolaunch has made glancing references to its in-house propulsion system development program over the past few months — for example, in its announcement about the full line of rocket-powered vehicles intended for midflight launch from its super-jumbo airplane, or in its proposed roadmap for hypersonic flight tests.
But the PGA rocket engine took center stage today in a report from Aviation Week and in a series of photos released by the Stratolaunch team.
Stratolaunch is aiming to start flight tests of its 385-foot-wingspan airplane at California’s Mojave Air and Space Port sometime in the next few months, leading up to its first air-launch operation by as early as 2020. The first launches would use Northrop Grumman’s Pegasus XL rocket, but the PGA would come into play for sending Stratolaunch’s larger launch vehicles to orbit.
“With a 100 percent in-house design, the engine will support multiple configurations of Stratolaunch’s future in-house launch vehicles to provide customers a more affordable price-to-orbit for payload,” the company ...