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m3n4.net April 21, 2019


World’s largest plane makes first flight

16 April 2019, 12:16 | Vera Richards

Stratolaunch Flies

Virgin Orbit plans to use a customized Boeing 747-400 to compete with Stratolaunch

The 117-meter wide plane took off from a runway in California's Mohave Desert and flew for 2.5 hours at altitudes of up to 5,000 meters at speeds of up to 304 km/h.

With twin fuselages and a wing of a size of a football field, the very big "Stratolaunch" plane is created to make propelling rockets into space easier and cheaper than traditional ground-based launch pads.

"What a fantastic first flight", Stratolaunch Chief Executive Officer Jean Floyd said. The aircraft is created to fly satellite-carrying rockets to an altitude of about 35,000 feet (10,700 m), then release boosters so that they can launch their payloads up to 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).

The behemoth, twin-fuselage Stratolaunch jet lifted off from Mojave Air and Space Port and climbed into the desert sky 70 miles north of Los Angeles.

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The company, which aims to take on the likes of SpaceX, Blue Origin among others, has finally successfully completed the first flight of "Roc" - world's largest and the most weight carrying plane till date.

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

Stratolaunch has a wingspan of 386 feet (118 m) and is 26 feet (8 m) long.

"It's so huge, it seems like it shouldn't be able to fly", aerospace and launch photographer for NASASpaceFlight.com Jack Beyer told CNN. "It's the same reason why people tune in each year to watch the Apple keynotes".

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Stratolaunch's objective is to make satellite launches easy and cheap. Floyd went on to remark, "Today's flight furthers our mission to provide a flexible alternative to ground launched systems". It features six Pratt & Whitney PW4056 turbofan engines, a similar type to those being used on the Airbus A300, Boeing 747-400 and Boeing 767. The idea is to fly the plane to 10 km before releasing satellites into orbit.

After Allen's death in October, Stratolaunch dropped plans to develop its own rocket engine and a family of launch vehicles, focusing instead on getting the giant plane airborne and launching Northrop Grumman's proven Pegasus XL.

Speaking to the media soon after the touchdown, Evan said, the successful flight was the result of the blood, sweat and tears of all the men and women of Stratolaunch who worked tirelessly.

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