World's largest plane makes first test flight

World's largest plane makes first test flight

Troy Powers
April 16, 2019

A company press release said the twin-fuselage jet hit altitudes up to 17,000 feet (5,181 meters) above the Mojave Desert while performance and handling qualities were evaluated.

The plane is created to drop rockets and other space vehicles weighing up to 500,000 pounds at an altitude of 35,000 feet and has been billed by the company as making satellite deployment as "easy as booking an airline flight".

"What a fantastic first flight", Stratolaunch's chief executive Jean Floyd said in a statement on Saturday. "It flew very much as we had simulated and as we predicted", he said.

The aircraft is created to act as a launch pad for satellites and will fly up to 10 km (6.2 miles) before releasing the satellites into orbit. Though Stratolaunch is the largest plane by wingspan, another craft, the helium-filled Airlander 10, takes the title of the longest aircraft now flying with a length of 302 feet (92 m). "We are incredibly proud of the Stratolaunch team, today's flight crew, our partners at Northrup Grumman's Scaled Composites and the Mojave Air and Space Port".

Earlier today before sun rise over the Mojave Desert, the largest airplane ever to be created was flown for the very first time.

The company's business model calls for getting satellites into space "as easy as booking an airline flight".

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The aircraft has a world-record wingspan of 385 feet, and is 238 feet long.

Here's how Stratolaunch is supposed to work once the plane is fully tested and certified: The jet, carrying a rocket loaded with a satellite, will take off from Mojave and climb to an altitude of 35,000 feet. Stratolaunch Systems plans to use the aircraft to launch air-to-space rockets with a weight of up to 500,000 lb (226,796 kg). "It's the same reason why people tune in each year to watch the Apple keynotes". The plane has two fuselages each with its own cockpit-though only one is needed to fly-6 Pratt & Whitney engines, usually found on Boeing 747s, and 28 wheels for its landing gear.

There have been concerns about how Stratolaunch's business will work once it takes on customers, with some questioning whether a trend toward smaller satellites would dampen demand for such a large plane.

Allen founded Stratolaunch Systems 2011 after emerging in aerospace by funding the development of the experimental air-launched SpaceShipOne, which in 2004 became the first privately built manned rocket to reach space.

Powered by the same type of engines used by Boeing 747s, the aircraft is created to take off at a maximum weight of 1.3m pounds. The event was supported by the Stratolaunch team who were present on the grounds to celebrate the aircraft's successful first flight.