(Reuters) - Microsoft Corp co-founder Paul Allen is planning to build a spaceship that could replace the Space Shuttle this decade.
Allen, 58, is hoping his new company -- called Stratolaunch Systems -- will launch unmanned rockets from a flying carrier plane to ferry government and commercial payloads into space and back, and eventually evolve to human space missions.
The initiative comes only months after the United States retired the Space Shuttle program after 30 years, opening the door to private enterprise to supply space vehicles.
Allen's rocket will be launched from a massive carrier aircraft powered by six jumbo jet engines, to be constructed by Scaled Composites, a unit of defense contractor Northrop Grumman Corp. The rocket itself will be made by private space company SpaceX, founded by Elon Musk, the billionaire co-founder of PayPal.
The first test flight is targeted within five years...