Stratolaunch, company established by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen and focused on developing own lifting plane called Stratolauncher, signed agreement with NASA to develop new kind of propulsion.
NASA recently announced about agreement signed on September 13, 2017 between Stratolaunch and NASA’s Stennis Space Center. The Space Act Agreement covers according to official statement:
“reimbursable testing and related support services to Stratolaunch to support propulsion, vehicle, and ground support system development and testing activities.”
Stratolaunch and NASA gave no details on what kind of engine or propulsion will be created under agreement, it was unveiled that it will be tested at E1 Ultra High Pressure Propulsion Test Facility at Stennis facility. E1 is divided into two segments:
– E1 Cell 1 where liquid fueled and hybrid based test articles up to 3300 kN are tested in horizontal position
– E1 Cells 2 and 3 amor testing LOX and LH2 turbopumps with high-pressure fueling systems.
As we can see Stratolaunch will probably design at least part of engine for some kind of space vehicle. It is possible that Company finally decided to develop own rocket for their Stratolauncher lifting plane; until now it was not clearly specified what kind of rocket will be designated as second stage of Stratolauncher. Paul Allen’s company announced that will cooperate with orbital ATK and use their Pegasus XL for Stratolauncher, still as Pegasus XL is rather outdated it was not considered by anyone as permanent solution.
At the moment Stratolaunch is finishing assembling of their lifting plane and what seems to be quite probable would like to begun development process of own rocket to enter market with at least blueprints of own second stage of Stratolaunch.