Microsoft Co-Founder Plans New Space Plane
A billionaire co-founder of Microsoft is among key figures in the business world who have joined forces to design a plane that can launch astronauts and cargo into space.
Paul Allen, who started the software giant with Bill Gates, is working with aerospace pioneer Burt Rutan on plans to build the world's largest-ever aircraft.
They have teamed up with Elon Musk, founder of Space Exploration Technologies Corp (SpaceX), and Michael Griffin, a former Nasa administrator.
The twin-fuselage plane, with wings longer than a football pitch, could be used as a platform from which to carry a rocket - the SpaceX - high into the atmosphere from where it would be launched.
Such a development would mean a dramatic cut to the high costs and risks of launching both cargo and human crews to low Earth orbit.
The new carrier plane would operate from a large airport or spaceport, such as the Kennedy Space Centre.
It would need a 12,000ft-long runway for take-off and landing and be capable of flying up to 1,300 nautical miles to the point where the rocket could be launched, designers told Universe Today.
Mr Allen first teamed up with Burt Rutan in 2004 to send the first privately-financed, manned spacecraft into space.
He said the new project would "keep America at the forefront of space exploration" and give a new generation of children something to dream about.