FILE PHOTO: The world’s largest airplane, built by the late Paul Allen’s company Stratolaunch Systems, makes its first test flight in MojaveMore

By Eric M. Johnson and Joey Roulette

SEATTLE/ORLANDO, Fla. (Reuters) – Stratolaunch Systems Corporation, the space company founded by late billionaire and Microsoft Corp co-founder Paul Allen, is closing operations, cutting short ambitious plans to challenge traditional aerospace companies in a new “space race,” four people familiar with the matter said on Friday.

The company, a unit of Allen’s privately held investment vehicle Vulcan Inc, had been developing a portfolio of launch vehicles including the world’s largest airplane by wingspan to launch satellites and eventually humans into space.

Allen, who founded Seattle-based Stratolaunch in 2011, died at age 65 in October.

Vulcan has been exploring a possible

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