Aug 12,2022 _ Inside Scaled

Scaled Composites celebrates 40th Anniversary

Scaled Composites celebrates 40 years as a fast-paced aerospace research company generating one-of-a-kind, proof-of-concept, and record setting aircraft.

During the summer of 1982, Burt Rutan, Pat Storch, and Herb Iverson came up with an idea – to form a company to build and test conceptual and research aircraft and scaled down prototypes, and on August 12, they broke ground on a hangar to house this new company in: Scaled Composites: Advanced Link to Efficient Design (SCALED). Since that day in 1982, Scaled has designed, built, and tested unique aircraft of all shapes, sizes, and performance goals.

No day is the same at Scaled, and our history of projects shows this – we’ve created everything from small 5 pound UAVs, altitude world-record holding aircraft, the first privately funded manned spacecraft, and even the world’s largest wingspan aircraft. We’re a company that gets to try out and prove ideas that our customers bring us – and whether those proven ideas end up in a museum, flying a variety of missions long past the initial mission design, or operated by a customer – we get the enjoyment of knowing that we made it possible.

Over the years, our many amazing employees have made our work possible – from the longstanding employees who have been here since the start, to those who have popped in for a period at various points over the past 40 years, and our current talented employees who continue to work on the emerging technologies we have inside our hangars.

Scaled’s 40 years of accomplishments were made possible by our uniquely diversified employees consistently striving toward a common goal in a fast paced setting. This is on full display every single day when walking through any section of Scaled’s hangars to see engineering, shop, flight test, and support functions all coming together around an aircraft or manufacturing area in support of our customers.

Going back to the start: while the new hangar 78 was under construction next to Rutan Aircraft Factory, the new Scaled employees got right to work from the old Mojave hospital and T-Hangars on the airport designing Starship and getting Microlight designed and built. When moving into the completed Hangar 78 in January of 1983, fabrication of Starship parts began on the first day. Shortly after, Microlight made its first flight and Scaled began its legacy.

During the early years of Scaled, first flights of the Starship proof-of-concept and Predator agriculture plane took to the skies. Beechcraft acquired the company in 1985. The Model 324 Scarab, an advanced Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) for its time and one of Scaled’s first production programs, was delivered. ATTT initially flew with a cruciform tail prior to modification to a Bronco-style tail during envelope expansion.

The “Mojave Yacht Club” build two catamaran hard sails for the 1988 Stars & Stripes race sailboat. Other early Scaled programs included the proof-of-concept business jet Triumph and the B-2 radar cross-section model.

In 1989, Wyman Gordon purchased Scaled and kicked off the 1990’s with a variety of projects. This included engine demonstrators with Lima 1, Lima 2, and V-Jet II. Scaled continued its UAV developments with Raptor (flown manned and unmanned) and the smaller Alliance-1 POC risk reduction vehicle. We continued to expand beyond traditional aircraft with a couple of balloon gondolas for around the world attempts, which were built for Earthwinds and Global Hilton.

Scaled then started producing the wings and tail fins for the Orbital Pegasus rocket, with production that lasted well into the 2010s. We even built two separate VTOL rocket concepts with the DC-X and Roton Rotary Rocket. Both our awesome agile light-turbofan ARES and World Altitude Record holding Proteus first flew at either end of the 1990s, and they continue to operate to today as multi-mission vehicles.

The 2000s brought a lot of exciting changes and challenges to Scaled, kicking off with the business jet concept Adam M-309 making its first flight and Proteus setting three world records. In 2001, Burt Rutan and 10 investors purchased Scaled back from Wyman Gordon while working behind the scenes on our bid for the X-Prize.

Shortly after, WhiteKnight and SpaceShipOne took Scaled Composites to space with the first privately funded space flights, followed with two successful space flights in just six days where Scaled won the Ansari X-Prize and helped pioneer a new commercial space race. A couple years later, GlobalFlyer performed multiple circumnavigation flights and set records of its own.

In 2007, Scaled was acquired by Northrop Grumman – this August also marks the 15th anniversary of Scaled as part of the Northrop Grumman team. This acquisition was careful to preserve Scaled's unique offerings, enabling us to operate as a separate entity and progress our legacy. Scaled continues to closely work with Northrop Grumman as a supplier on rapid development and technology demonstrator programs.

More first flights were celebrated over the next few years, including additional commercial space vehicles, the Firebird Demonstrator, and BiPod – Burt’s final project before he retired from Scaled in 2011.

After Burt’s retirement, Scaled buckled down on what would become the world’s largest airplane in 2011 - the Stratolaunch carrier aircraft, Roc, with a 385ft wingspan and a maximum gross takeoff weight of 1.2 million pounds. First flight would occur eight years later in 2019, with Scaled taking the giant craft to skies over Mojave.

While the big plane was in the works, Scaled made and flew several other aircraft including the highly maneuverable jet demonstrator Swift, two Model 401 Sierras, and multiple UAVs of various sizes. Scaled has demonstrated our ability to design, build, and flight test the full spectrum of aviation from the world’s largest aircraft to small UAVs.

While we can look back at our average of one brand new aircraft per year during our 40 year history, Scaled continues to look forward as well. We continue to develop new and revolutionary aircraft behind our hangar doors. Our current work includes a variety of UAVs, a clean sheet manned aircraft, and several novel concepts that we hope will once again redefine what’s possible in aerospace. Scaled continues to partner with all types of customers in the purpose of achieving industry breakthroughs and having fun by producing some of the coolest air vehicles ever seen. We look forward to continuing our legacy of designing, building, and flight testing game-changing aircraft, and look forward to sharing more of the exciting projects on which we are working.

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