It’s a bird, it’s a plane, its a giant launch system for commercial spacecraft! It’s not built yet, but the legendary Burt Rutan claims his company will build it and space customers will come:
(CNET) — The carrier aircraft envisioned by Scaled Composites will have an even larger wingspan and incorporate systems taken from two 747 jumbo jets. It is similar in appearance to a vastly scaled-up version of the carrier plane designed by Rutan to launch SpaceShipOne as part of the Ansari X-Prize competition.
The carrier will be able to launch all kinds of spacecraft from an altitude of 30,000 feet with a forward velocity of 300 mph or more added to whatever fraction of earth’s rotation the specific launch latitude provides. One big advantage of this launch architecture is it can operate anywhere in the world, including the near equator where earth’s rotation gives the greatest escape velocity kick. The savings in rocket propellant will allow the actual spacecraft to reach much higher orbits or even trans lunar injection with far less fuel.
That’s a loft goal. But given Rutan’s track record and the fact that he’s being bankrolled by MSFT co-founder Paul Allen, it might be possible.