Published: Tue, April 16, 2019
Sci-tech | By Laverne Osborne

Stratolaunch plane makes first flight

Stratolaunch plane makes first flight

Stratolaunch Systems was founded in 2011 by the late Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen and is vying to be a contender in the market for air-launching small satellites into space.

This was the first flight for Stratolaunch, which is billed as the world's largest aircraft.

"Today's flight furthers our mission to provide a flexible alternative to ground-launched systems", he said while talking about the historic first test flight of world's largest plane.

To complete this task, the aircraft is equipped with six engines, two fuselages instead of one, and a wing longer than a United States football field, which makes it the largest plane ever built in terms of wingspan.

The jet lifted off from Mojave Air and Space Port shortly before 7 a.m. local time Saturday and climbed into the desert sky 70 miles (112 kilometers) north of Los Angeles. Stratolaunch aims to "make access to orbit as routine as catching a commercial airline flight is today".

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The widest plane ever built prior to the Stratolaunch was the mid-20th-century H-4 Hercules - aka "Spruce Goose" - built by famous USA aviator Howard Hughes. It's designed with a reinforced center wing to support multiple launch vehicles with a weight up to 500,000 pounds.

Originally, the company had reportedly planned to build a whole suite of rockets, including a spaceplane. "I honestly could not have hoped for more on a first flight, especially of an airplane of this complexity and this uniqueness". They include the six-engine Antonov AN 225 cargo plane, which is 275.5 feet (84 meters) long, and the Boeing 747-8, which is just over 250 feet (76.3 meters) long.

Importantly, Saturday's flight was just a test - no rockets were launched from the giant plane as it soared at 17,000 feet.

In the next three years, after completing the test phase, Stratolaunch expects to launch satellite-bearing rockets into space.

Stratolaunch originally touted this jet as the world's biggest aircraft, but toned down that statement this weekend referring to it as the "world's largest all-composite aircraft". "Evan specializes in experimental flight test, aviation and test safety, aircraft stability and control testing as well as operational leadership", says an official.

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