Scaled Composites

Coordinates: 35°03′23″N 118°09′40″W / 35.0564°N 118.1610°W / 35.0564; -118.1610
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Scaled Composites, LLC
IndustryAerospace industry
FounderBurt Rutan
HeadquartersMojave, California
Key people
Greg Morris, President
Jennifer Santiago, Executive Vice President
Kevin Mickey, President Emeritus
ProductsAir vehicle design, tooling, and manufacturing, specialty composite structure design, analysis and fabrication, and developmental flight test
Number of employees
Over 200
ParentNorthrop Grumman Edit this at Wikidata

Scaled Composites (often called simply Scaled) is an American aerospace company founded by Burt Rutan and currently owned by Northrop Grumman. It is located at the Mojave Air and Space Port in Mojave, California, United States. Founded to develop experimental aircraft, the company now focuses on designing and developing concept craft and prototype fabrication processes for aircraft and other vehicles. It is known for unconventional designs, for its use of non-metal, composite materials, and for winning the Ansari X Prize with its experimental spacecraft SpaceShipOne.

Company history[edit]

Scaled Composites was established in 1982 and purchased by the Beech Aircraft Corporation in 1985, as a result of the collaboration on the Starship project. In 1988, Beech's parent company, Raytheon, sold Scaled back to Rutan, who then sold it to Wyman-Gordon. After Wyman-Gordon was acquired by Precision Castparts Corp., Rutan and ten investors re-acquired the company as Scaled Composites, LLC. Northrop Grumman, a major shareholder in the company with a 40% stake, said it would acquire the company outright on July 20, 2007.[1] Both companies said Northrop Grumman's acquisition would not affect Scaled Composites' strategy or involve replacing Burt Rutan as senior manager.[2] The acquisition by Northrop Grumman was completed on August 24, 2007.[3] Rutan retired in April 2011.[4] Ben Diachun, a long time employee, was president of Scaled from Oct 31, 2015[5] until April 2019.[6][7] Cory Bird, another long time employee, became president of Scaled in April 2019[8]

Early projects[edit]

Before forming Scaled Composites, Burt Rutan had designed several aircraft for amateur builders, including the VariEze, often considered one of general aviation's most innovative designs.[9][10] He also designed the Beechcraft Starship, which was a commercial failure. These aircraft were distinctive because of their canard configuration, winglets and pusher propellers.

Before SpaceShipOne, Rutan was best known for his Voyager aircraft, which his brother, Dick Rutan, and Jeana Yeager flew around the world without refueling in 1986. In 2005, the single-jet Global Flyer was flown by billionaire adventurer Steve Fossett on the first solo non-stop, non-refueled flight around the world, and later in the longest flight in history: 41,467.53 km (25,766.73 mi).

Although their role was not widely publicized, Rutan and John Roncz, who had provided aerodynamics support to a number of previous Rutan projects including Starship, helped design, and Scaled manufactured, the double slotted wing mast for the Stars & Stripes catamaran for Dennis Conner's entry in the 1988 America's Cup.[11]


The White Knight carries SpaceShipOne on Flight 16P September 29, 2004.
(L to R) Marion Blakely, FAA - Chief. Commercial Astronaut- Michael Winston "Mike" Melvill - Sir Richard Charles Nicholas Branson - Elbert Leander "Burt" Rutan - William Brian Binnie & Paul Gardner Allen reflect on a mission accomplished (October 4, 2004)

The company announced in April 2003 that it was working on a privately funded spacecraft, in an attempt to win the Ansari X PRIZE for the first private crewed spaceflight. This experimental rocket-powered spacecraft was given the name SpaceShipOne. On December 17, 2003, they announced SpaceShipOne's first supersonic flight, the first flight of its kind by a privately funded aircraft. SpaceShipOne successfully made this flight, reaching 68,000 feet (21,000 m) and 930 mph (Mach 1.2). The craft was taken aloft by the White Knight carrier aircraft. On the same day, Paul Allen, one of the founders of Microsoft, confirmed publicly the rumors that he was the angel investor behind the SpaceShipOne venture.

On April 1, 2004, the U.S. Department of Transportation issued the company what it called the world's first license for a sub-orbital crewed rocket flight.[12] The license was approved by the Federal Aviation Administration's Office of Commercial Space Transportation, which has backed licenses for more than 150 commercial launches of uncrewed launch vehicles in its 20 years, but never a license for crewed flight on a sub-orbital trajectory. The Mojave Airport, operating part-time as Mojave Spaceport, is the launch point for SpaceShipOne. SpaceShipOne performed the first privately funded human spaceflight on June 21, 2004. Flight 16P on September 29, 2004, and Flight 17P on October 4, 2004, won the X-Prize for Scaled Composites and SpaceShipOne.

Stratolaunch Carrier Aircraft[edit]

Scaled Composites Model 351 (nicknamed the "Roc") was built for Stratolaunch Systems to provide a platform from which air-launch space missions can be staged.[13]

In August 2015, Scaled Composites president Kevin Mickey stated the company has so far assembled "roughly 200,000 pounds of composite structure" for the vehicle and if put on a football field, "its wingtips would extend beyond the goalposts by 15 feet on each side."[14]

Each of the twin fuselages of the aircraft is 238 feet (73 m) long and will be supported by 12 main landing gear wheels and two nose gear wheels. It will require 12,000 feet of runway to lift-off.[15]

Rutan Aircraft Factory aircraft[edit]

Rutan Aircraft's first – Model 32 VariViggen (1972)
Rutan Model 61 Long-EZ

Burt Rutan created Rutan Aircraft Factory to market a commercial variation of his Model "VariViggen" prototype" he began building in his garage in 1968 which he called The Model 32, also known as the VariViggen SP. This model utilized a slightly longer fuselage, larger span and winglets in order to increase efficiency. Within 8 years after its founding, this company became one of the world's important aircraft design and prototyping companies.[16] The Rutan Aircraft Factory sold over 600 plan sets for the VariViggen to homebuilders, and eventually about 20 of the aircraft were built. Following the crash of one in New Brunswick, Canada, in September 2006 due to wing tank fuel contamination,[17] fewer than five are currently still flying. The prototype aircraft, N27VV, was donated to the EAA AirVenture Museum in 1988.

Scaled Composites aircraft[edit]

Model Name First
115 Beechcraft Starship 1982 85% scale prototype, twin-turboprop, canard business aircraft
B-2 Spirit Scale model for radar cross-section tests of the stealth bomber[citation needed]
133 ATTT 1986 STOL, tandem-wing transport demonstrator
143 Triumph 1988 Three-surface, twin-engine very light jet prototype for Beechcraft
IAI Searcher 1992 larger AAI RQ-2 Pioneer reconnaissance UAV[citation needed]
Model TRA324 Scarab 1992 Reconnaissance UAV for Teledyne Ryan (Northrop Grumman since 1999)
DC-X 1993 structural aeroshell and control surfaces for McDonnell Douglas
151 ARES 1990 single-jet Close Air Support demonstrator
Pegasus rocket 1990 Wings and fins for Orbital ATK
158 Pond Racer 1990 twin-boom air racer
Bell Eagle Eye 1998 UAV tiltrotor demonstrator for Bell Helicopter
205/206 1991 designs for airlaunch of a booster rocket heavier than 500,000 lb (230 t)[18]
Orion Industries UAV Model 706 Sea Bat 1995 UAV prototype for the US Navy[19]
247 Vantage 1996 prototype single-engine very light jet for VisionAire
271 V-Jet II 1997 single jet demonstrator for Williams International
276 NASA X-38 1998 fuselage of experimental emergency re-entry vehicle for the ISS
281 Proteus 1998 High-Altitude Long Endurance twinjet with tandem wings
Roton ATV 1999 Fuselage for the Rotary Rocket concept of a reusable SSTO manned spacecraft
287 NASA ERAST Program proof of concept model for 85,000 ft (26,000 m) UAV[citation needed]
309 M-309 CarbonAero 2000 Piston push-pull six-seater prototype for the Adam A500
326 X-47A Pegasus 2001 Northrop Grumman Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicle demonstrator
302 Toyota TA-1 2002 prototype general aviation four-seater for Toyota
316 SpaceShipOne 2003 experimental sub-orbital ship for air launch, within Tier One
318 White Knight 2003 twinjet mother ship for SpaceShipOne derived from Proteus
311 Virgin Atlantic GlobalFlyer 2004 Solo Jet aircraft for nonstop circumnavigation
339 SpaceShipTwo 2008 Virgin Galactic's air-launched Sub-orbital ship for space tourism
348 White Knight Two 2008 quadjet mother ship lifting the SpaceShipTwo to altitude
351 Stratolaunch 2019 built for Stratolaunch Systems to carry air launch to orbit rockets, largest aircraft by wingspan
367 BiPod 2011 experimental hybrid electric flying car
395 Proteus development Proposed unmanned and armed version for the USAF Hunter-Killer program
396 RQ-4 Global Hawk variant Smaller, armed version of the RQ-4 Global Hawk for the USAF Hunter-Killer program
400 Swift 2016 jet trainer contender for the T-X program
401 Deimos & Phobos 2017 manned and unmanned Close Air Support demonstrators
LauncherOne 2019 air launch to orbit rocket under development for Virgin Orbit

Other aircraft projects[edit]

Non-aircraft work[edit]

Accidents and incidents[edit]

  • On July 26, 2007, an explosion occurred during testing of SpaceShipTwo's systems, killing three employees and injuring three more.[20]
  • On October 31, 2014, the SpaceShipTwo VSS Enterprise broke apart during an in-flight powered test. The incident killed one pilot and severely injured the other, resulting in the total loss of the vehicle; both pilots were Scaled employees.[21][22] On July 28, 2015, the NTSB released the final report on its investigation of the incident, concluding that for an unknown reason the pilot had released the "Feather" of SpaceShipTwo prematurely, leading directly to the craft's disintegration.[23]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Staff, A. I. N. "Northrop Grumman Seals Scaled Composites Deal". Aviation International News. Retrieved August 18, 2020.
  2. ^ "MP-RTIP: Rutan To Get First Crack At Flight Test". Shephard Group. Archived from the original on September 28, 2007. Retrieved December 7, 2006.
  3. ^ "Northrop Grumman Completes Acquisition of Scaled Composites, LLC". Archived from the original on July 7, 2012. Retrieved August 25, 2007.
  4. ^ "Burt Rutan Announces Retirement Plans" (PDF). Retrieved July 10, 2011.
  5. ^ Drew, James (October 23, 2015). "Scaled president appointed VP of advanced design at Northrop". Retrieved May 5, 2019. Long-time Scaled vice-president of engineering, Ben Diachun, has been named to fill the vacancy of president effective 31 October
  6. ^ "Urban Air Mobility Startup Opener Hires Key Execs for Future Blackfly eVTOL". CleanTechnica. April 11, 2019. Retrieved May 5, 2019. Ben Diachun is an industry veteran and innovator who is also now Opener's President. Diachun comes from Scaled Composites and worked with the late Paul Allen on designing and flying the experimental air-launched rocket-powered aircraft SpaceShipOne.
  7. ^ "OPENER Names Ben Diachun President". GlobeNewswire News Room (Press release). April 2, 2019. Retrieved May 5, 2019. As OPENER's President, my goal is to take what has been accomplished by this amazing team to the next level, and successfully bring a safe and affordable flying vehicle to market.
  8. ^ "Scaled Composites Announces Cory Bird as President". April 8, 2019. Retrieved May 5, 2019. Monday, April 8, 2019. Scaled Composites has announced Cory Bird as the company's new president.
  9. ^ Pattillo, Donald M. (2020). The General Aviation Industry in America: A History, 2d ed. Jefferson, NC: McFarland. p. 141. ISBN 978-1-4766-7721-7.
  10. ^ van der Linden, F. Robert (2011). The Nation's Hangar: Aircraft Treasures of the Smithsonian. Smithsonian Institution. p. 173. ISBN 978-1-58834-316-1.
  11. ^ America's Cup 1988
  12. ^ "SpaceShipOne gets federal go-ahead". NBC News. Retrieved December 9, 2009.
  13. ^ "Stratolaunch and Orbital – The Height of Air Launch". Space flight. NASA. May 24, 2013. Retrieved August 10, 2015.
  14. ^ Moon, Mariella (August 4, 2016). "Largest plane in the world to perform test flights in 2016". Engadget. AOL. Retrieved August 10, 2015.
  15. ^ "SEE IT: World's largest plane under construction in Calif". NY Daily News. Retrieved August 10, 2015.
  16. ^ Fisk, Peter (2011). Creative Genius: An Innovation Guide for Business Leaders, Border Crossers and Game Changers. Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 978-0-85708-023-3.
  17. ^ "Aviation Investigation Report". Canada: Transportation Safety Board. 2006. A06A0092.
  18. ^ Belfiore, Michael (January 23, 2012). "Burt Rutan on Designing the World's Largest Aircraft". Popular Mechanics. Retrieved January 20, 2012. In 1991, to address a requirement to launch a booster heavier than 500,000 pounds, [Rutan] did the Model 205 and 206 preliminary designs.
  19. ^ "Orion Industries UAV Model 706 Sea Bat Western Museum of Flight". Retrieved August 15, 2021.
  20. ^ "Fatal explosion at Mojave Airport".
  21. ^ Mojave Air and Space Port press conference on Friday 31 October 2014 at 2:00pm PDT -- involving: the Spaceport, Scaled, Virgin Galactic, County Fire Department, Sheriff's Department
  22. ^ "Statement from Virgin Galactic 31.10.14". October 31, 2014. Archived from the original on November 14, 2014. Retrieved November 12, 2014.
  23. ^ "The Space Review: A Failure of Foresight and Oversight". Retrieved August 10, 2015.

External links[edit]

35°03′23″N 118°09′40″W / 35.0564°N 118.1610°W / 35.0564; -118.1610