This is not a surprise.
It was, at it’s core a rich man’s hobby, and with Allen gone, I am sure that the company will be far more resource limited than before:
Air launch space company Stratolaunch has abandoned development of a family of dedicated launchers and PGA rocket engines destined for deployment from the company’s very large carrier aircraft currently poised for first flight at Mojave, California.
The shocking move comes just weeks after Stratolaunch achieved the first long duration runs on its ”PGA” rocket engine’s preburner in tests at NASA Stennis Space Center in Mississippi — and only three months after the death of Stratolaunch founder Paul Allen. Described by Stratolaunch leaders as “the world’s most efficient hydrogen engine”, the PGA was expected to begin full-scale testing in 2020 and was to power a family of launchers unveiled by the company.
Although Stratolaunch has given no explanation for the abrupt cancellation of the ambitious project, development costs are thought to have risen steeply as testing accelerated. The company says only that “we are streamlining operations, focusing on the aircraft and our ability to support a demonstration launch of the Northrop Grumman Pegasus XL air-launch vehicle. We are immensely proud of what we have accomplished and look forward to first flight in 2019.”
My prediction, and my record on predictions is crappy, is that there will be a few launches, but that it won’t manage to be a meaningful player in the commercial launch space.