Giant space rocket carrier plane with world’s LONGEST WINGS makes maiden flight

15 April, 2019, 01:00 | Author: Bridget Leonard
  • Virgin Orbit plans to use a customized Boeing 747-400 to compete with Stratolaunch

The world's largest all-composite aircraft Stratolaunch, which has the capability to several launch vehicles carrying satellites in space in a single mission, on Sunday successfully completed its maiden test-flight over the Mojave desert in the United States.

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

The big, six-engine aircraft known as Stratolaunch has a 385-foot wingspan, weighs about 500,000 pounds and is the dream of late Microsoft co-founder Paul G. Allen. Stratolaunch aims to "make access to orbit as routine as catching a commercial airline flight is today".

"It was an emotional moment for me, personally, to watch this majestic bird take flight", Stratolaunch CEO Jean Floyd said in a phone call with reporters.

According to test pilot Evan Thomas, a former F-16 Air Force fighter pilot, the plane flew as predicted for the most part.

The aircraft is so big its wing span is longer than a football field, or about 1.5 times that of an Airbus A380.

It hit a top speed of 304 kilometers per hour (189 mph) and reached an altitude of 17,000 feet, or 5,182 meters.


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".

Stratolaunch was established in 2011 by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen who died in October previous year. "It's so huge, it seems like it shouldn't be able to fly", Jack Beyer, an aerospace and launch photographer for NASASpaceFlight.com, told CNN on Thursday.

In other words, this isn't your typical airplane.

Stratolaunch is created to be a mobile platform for launching satellites into space.

Thomas said there were "a few little things that were off-nominal but really for a first flight it was spot-on". 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.

It is created to carry into space, and drop, a rocket that would in turn ignite to deploy satellites.

If all goes as planned, Stratolaunch said the plane is expected to launch its first satellite sometime next year.

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