Published: Sun, April 14, 2019
Research | By Raquel Erickson

World's largest plane Stratolaunch makes first test flight

World's largest plane Stratolaunch makes first test flight

The white airplane called Roc, which has a wingspan the length of an American football field and is powered by six engines on a twin fuselage, took to the air shortly before 7 a.m. "We are incredibly proud of the Stratolaunch team, today's flight crew and our partners", says Jean Floyd, CEO of Stratolaunch.

"It was an emotional moment for me, to personally watch this majestic bird take flight, to see Paul Allen's dream come to life in front of my very eyes", Mr Floyd told a teleconference briefing.

The company, which was founded in 2011 by the late Paul Allen, has a contract with Northrop Grumman is use Stratolaunch to send its Pegasus XL rocket into space.

Stratolaunch describes its vessel as the "world's largest plane" but there are aircraft which are longer from nose to tail.

British billionaire Richard Branson's company Virgin Galactic has also developed aircraft that launch rockets into orbit from great height.

It hit a top speed of 304 kilometers per hour (189 mph) and reached an altitude of 17,000 feet, or 5,182 meters. Allen died of lymphoma in October 2018, only a handful of months before his creation could take flight for the first time.


As part of the initial flight, the pilots evaluated aircraft performance and handling qualities before landing successfully back at the Mojave Air and Space Port.

"The aircraft is a remarkable engineering achievement and we congratulate everyone involved". The plane reached speeds of 189 miles per hour (304 km/h) and performed several flight control maneuvers, including "roll doublets, yawing maneuvers, pushovers and pull-ups, and steady heading side slips", the manufacturer Stratolaunch said in a statement.

Powered by the same type of engines used by Boeing 747s, the aircraft is created to take off at a maximum weight of 1.3 million pounds (589,676 kilograms).

The airplane's six Pratt & Whitney engines and 28-wheel landing gear were originally designed for Boeing 747s, but aerospace company Scaled Composites worked alongside Stratolaunch and repurposed three 747s to put it together.

The aircraft has a world-record wingspan of 385 feet, and is 238 feet long. "Today's flight furthers our mission to provide a flexible alternative to ground-launched systems".

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