Giant Stratolaunch aircraft lifts off from California

Federico Mansilla
Abril 14, 2019

To get this beast down a runway and off the ground, the company equipped it with six 747 engines and 28 wheels.

Stratolaunch was initiated by late Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen in 2011. It must theoretically be used to carry and drop at altitude a small rocket that will then light its engine, and will propel to space to place satellites in orbit.

The world's largest aeroplane by wingspan has taken flight for the first time.

The mega jet carried out its maiden voyage over the Mojave desert.

The company seeks to cash in on higher demand in coming years for vessels that can put satellites in orbit, competing in the United States with other space entrepreneurs and industry stalwarts such as Elon Musk's SpaceX and United Launch Alliance - a partnership between Boeing and Lockheed Martin.

Evan Thomas, the Scaled Composites test pilot who flew the plane, said the flight went very well.

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The aircraft is created to carry as many as three satellite-laden rockets at a time under the center of its enormous wing, which stretches 385 feet - a longer wingspan than any other aircraft.

Specifically, the wing span is 117 meters; that of an Airbus A380 is just under 80.

The twin-fuselage plane, called the Stratolaunch, flew for about 2 1/2 hours over the Mojave Desert in Southern California, reaching a speed of 189 mph and an altitude of 17,000 feet, the Stratolaunch team said.

The plane flew Saturday for about two and a half hours, Stratolaunch said.

The test flight was meant to test the aircraft's performance and handling, eventually touching back down at MASP. "Today's flight furthers our mission to provide a flexible alternative to ground launched systems".

"It was an emotional moment for me, personally, to watch this majestic bird take flight", Stratolaunch CEO Jean Floyd said in a phone call with reporters. Allen died in October 2018 while suffering from non-Hodgkins' lymphoma, just months after the plane's development was unveiled.

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