Mojave, California. 15 April 2019. The largest plane in the world took off in the Mojave desert of the United States. Stratolaunch has got six engines, two fuselages and a wingspan wider than a football pitch. Developed by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, the plan is to strap rockets under the wings, fly to 35,000 and then release them.
The airplane has been named Roc. It took off at 6:58 a.m. PDT (9:58 a.m. EDT; 1358 GMT) and stayed aloft for 2.5 hours, as per the Stratolaunch statement. It reached a peak altitude of 17,000 feet (5,180 m) and a top speed of 189 mph (304 km/h).
“What a fantastic first flight,” said Jean Floyd, CEO of Stratolaunch. “Today’s flight furthers our mission to provide a flexible alternative to ground launched systems. 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.”
The test team conducted standard aircraft testing exercises. Initial results from today’s test points include:
- Performed a variety of flight control maneuvers to calibrate speed and test flight control systems, including roll doublets, yawing maneuvers, pushovers and pull-ups, and steady heading side slips.
- Conducted simulated landing approach exercises at a max altitude of 15,000 feet mean sea level.
The Stratolaunch aircraft is a mobile launch platform that will enable airline-style access to space that is convenient, affordable and routine. The reinforced center wing can support multiple launch vehicles, weighing up to a total of 500,000 pounds.
“We all know Paul would have been proud to witness today’s historic achievement,” said Jody Allen, Chair of Vulcan Inc. and Trustee of the Paul G. Allen Trust. “The aircraft is a remarkable engineering achievement and we congratulate everyone involved.”
All pictures courtesy Stratolaunch-A Paul Allen Company