A giant aircraft with six engines, and the largest in the world, has made its first test flight by landing after spending about two hours in the air on Saturday.
The Stratolaunch is a gigantic aircraft. double fuselage six engine plane that took off from the Mojave Air and Space Sport and sped across the California desert sky, about 200 miles north of Los Angeles.
Founded by the late billionaire Paul G. Allen, the company Stratolaunch aims to become a serious competitor in the niche field of launching small satellites.
The aircraft is designed to carry up to three satellite-carrying rockets both under the center of its gigantic wing that spans 117 meters – a much larger size than any other aircraft.
Once in flight, at an altitude of just over 10 kilometers, the rockets would be launched, lighting their engine to reach the space.
Among the advantages of such an air launch system is the ability to use a number of airports and avoid the limitations of unique launch sites, which are at the mercy of weather, air traffic , or maritime traffic when it comes to offshore firing platforms.
Allen, co-founder of Microsoft, founded Stratolaunch Systems Corporation in 2011, after focusing on aerospace, funding the development of SpaceShipOne, which also launched from the air. This machine became, in 2004, the first private rocket piloted to reach the space.
After Paul Allen’s death in October 2018, Stratolaunch abandoned plans to develop its own rocket engine and a series of launch vehicles, focusing instead on testing the giant aircraft and launching the Pegasus XL rocket, a machine already tested by weapons manufacturer Northrop Grumman.
The Stratolaunch aircraft departed the hangar for the first time in May 2017, and conducted ground tests, including taxiing at speeds approaching take-off.
Powered by the same kind of engines that are used on the Boeing 747s, the aircraft is designed to take off with a maximum weight of nearly 600 tons. Its double fuselage – somehow the air equivalent of a catamaran – is 72.5 meters long.
The previous record-holder in terms of the size of an airplane was Howard Hughes’ H-4 Hercules Seaplane, at the time of the Second World War.
Preserved in a museum, the device has a wingspan of about 97.5 meters, but is only 67 meters long.
If Stratolaunch describes his plane as the largest in the world, other aircraft are even longer. Among these are the Antonov AN 225 four-engined freighter and the 84-meter freighter, or the Boeing 747-8, which exceeds 76 meters.
Tony Renney started working for Rise Media in 2017. Tony grew up in a small town in the Midwest. He studied chemistry in college, graduated, and married his wife one month later. Tony has been a proud New Yorker for the past 10 years. He covers politics and the economy. Previously he wrote for NPR and the Huffington Post.