Stratolaunch: The World’s largest Aircraft just flew for the first time
The world´s largest airplane — a Stratolaunch behemoth with two fuselages and six Boeing 747 engines — made its first test flight on Saturday in California.
The six-engined aircraft with a wingspan the size of a football field takes off for the first time from Mojave Air and Space Port at 10 am on Saturday before landing there 2.5 hours later and reaching a top speed of 189mph
The plane has a record-setting 385 ft wingspan that is wider than a football field
Powered by the same type of engines used by Boeing 747s, the aircraft is designed to take off at a maximum weight of 1.3 million pounds (589,676 kilograms).
Its twin fuselages — sort of the airplane equivalent of a catamaran — are 238 feet (72.5 meters) long.
The previous wingspan leader was Howard Hughes’ World War II-era eight-engine H-4 Hercules flying boat — nicknamed the Spruce Goose.
After years of development in the desert north of Los Angeles, a gigantic, six-engined mega jet with the wingspan of an American football field flew Saturday morning for the first time.
- “We finally did it,” said Stratolaunch Systems CEO Jean Floyd at a news conference from the hangar at Mojave Air & Space Port. “It was an emotional moment to watch this bird take flight.
Test pilot Evan Thomas flew the jet to speeds of about 173 mph, climbing as high as 15,000 feet before returning smoothly and safely back, after a nearly two-and-a-half-hour flight.
- “For the most part, the plane flew as predicted,” said Thomas, a former F-16 Air Force fighter pilot.
- “It was overall fantastic. I honestly could not have hoped for more on a first flight, especially of an airplane of this complexity and this uniqueness.”
Stratolaunch, the company founded in 2011 by the late Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, conducted the first test flight of the world’s largest plane.
In simple terms, the Stratolaunch aircraft is a giant flying launch pad, designed to hurtle satellites into low Earth orbit. It aims to offer the military, private companies and even NASA itself a more economical way to get into space.
The company’s business model calls for getting satellites into space “as easy as booking an airline flight.”
Allen’s groundbreaking aircraft is designed to carry as many as three satellite-laden rockets at a time under the center of its enormous wing. At an altitude of 35,000 feet (10,668 meters), the rockets would be released, ignite their engines and soar into space.
The advantages of such air-launch systems include being able to use numerous airports and avoid the limitations of fixed launch sites, which can be impacted by weather, air traffic and ship traffic on ocean ranges.
If successful, such a project would be a cheaper way to launch objects into space than rockets fired from the ground.