• Microsoft Corp co-founder Paul Allen is planning to build a spaceship that could replace the Space Shuttle and put paying passengers into orbit this decade. 

  • Lifelong space enthusiast Allen is hoping to launch unmanned rockets from a massive flying carrier plane to put government and commercial satellites into space 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 what will be the world's biggest plane, a massive carrier aircraft powered by six jumbo jet engines, to be constructed by Scaled Composites, a unit of defense contractor Northrop Grumman Corp. 

  • Its wingspan will be about 385 feet (117 meters), bigger than a football field and 70 percent longer than the wings of a Boeing 747. 

  • The rocket itself will be made by private space company SpaceX, created by Elon Musk, the billionaire co-founder of PayPal. The rocket and carrier will be integrated by aviation and missile specialists Dynetics.

  • The first test flight is targeted for 2015 with the first commercial flight the year after.