Written by The Business Journal Staff
History is in the making with the pending maiden voyage of the world’s largest aircraft, and local architect Teter AE had a hand in the project.
Aerospace company Scaled Composites began work some five years ago on its Stratolaunch Carrier plane, nicknamed the Roc, designed to deliver rockets high into the atmosphere where they can more easily launch satellites into orbit.
With construction wrapping up in the Mojave Air and Space Port in Southern California, the plane will boast a 385-foot wingspan, exceeding the 1947 record set by Howard Hughes’ H-4 Hercules, better known as the Spruce Goose, by 65 feet.
The venture has already set another record with the 97,000 square-foot assembly hangar housing the structure.
Built by Wallace and Smith of Bakersfield in 2012, the hangar was erected with an attached 20,000 square-foot office and was joined by an adjacent 88,000 square-foot fabrication facility.
The company tapped Fresno-based Teter AE to design the buildings, both of which were completed two months ahead of schedule.
“We’ve been working with them for about 15 years,” said Teter senior partner Clay Davis, who oversaw design work for the project. “We have a great relationship with them and they got us involved in this project.”
The T Hangar is 420 feet from wall to wall and 97-foot tall at the ridge line. In addition, it has approximately 6,100 square feet of mezzanine storage, a 1,200 square-foot flight simulation room and two remote restrooms.
Providing a 420-foot opening for the aircraft is a mega door made up of seven individual doors, all controlled by a touch screen system that has wireless access.
The fabrication facility used to make parts for the aircraft includes 14,000 square feet of mezzanine storage, 8,000 square feet of office space, a break room, and a 5,000 square-foot temperature and humidity controlled refrigeration room for “lay-up” of composite parts.
“It was a little bit of a learning curve,” Davis said. “We hadn’t done a hangar before but we’ve done metal building for clients so it’s just that on a larger scale.”
The Stratolaunch Carrier will soon spend much more of its time outside of the hangar, however.
Stratolaunch Systems, a company born from Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen and Scaled Composites founder Burt Rutan (who was raised in Dinuba), said it plans to begin flight testing the craft early this year. The first operational launch is expected to commence in 2018 when the plane will deliver its rocket to 30,000 feet before sending it into Earth’s orbit.
Last October, Stratolaunch announced a multi-year partnership with Orbital ATK, with plans to use the company’s Pegasus XL rockets to deliver the payload for the plane. Stratolaunch parted ways with both SpaceX and its Falcon 9 Air in 2012 over incompatible designs.
Funding for the project is being provided by Allen’s company Vulcan Aerospace as part of its vision to increase the frequency and affordability of going to space.
As opposed to launching from the ground, the airlaunch system is intended to provide orbital access to space with greater safety, cost effectiveness and flexibility.
Besides the space for Scaled Composites, Teter also designed a 56,600 square-foot hangar space for Virgin Galactic, as well as an adjoining two-story office of 8,400 square feet.
The structure, completed in 2011, is being used by Virgin to assemble and upgrade its latest spaceplanes, including the VSS Unity, which is currently undergoing flight testing.
“In addition, everybody that is paying to go up in flight, that’s where they will go to train before they go into space flight,” Davis said.
The project also stands out as one of two LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design)-certified aircraft hangars in the country thanks to various sustainable, eco-friendly and resource saving strategies.
“It’s all about energy efficiency — how much recycled content we used in construction and water reduction usage,” Davis said. “It’s a pretty energy efficient building.”
Stratolaunch and Virgin Galactic are among a new wave of aerospace-centered companies doing work inside the Mojave Air and Space Port. In all, some 60 tenants are located within the 3,300-acre property, including Orbital ATK, BAE Systems, Interorbital Systems, The Spaceship Company and XCOR Aerospace.
“We talked to others about doing projects but it’s like an anthill. You don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes,” Davis said.
“We’re still kind of a fixture out there,” he added. “Anything new of any consequence kind of goes to our team and Wallace and Smith.”
Teter was established in 1979 as Teter Consultants in Visalia. Local engineer Glen Teter focused on structural engineering services to Valley businesses until the mid-‘90s when the company launched its architectural design and consulting services, coinciding with a move to Fresno.
The firm also offers electrical and mechanical engineering, sustainable design/coordination, commissioning, building information modeling and certified access specialist surveys.