Stratolaunch plane founded by Microsoft’s Paul Allen takes flight in California

Michele Stevens
April 16, 2019

"It was an emotional moment for me, personally, to watch this majestic bird take flight", said Stratolaunch CEO Jean Floyd.

The pilot Evan Thomas told journalists the experience was "awesome" and that " the plane flew as anticipated". It must theoretically be used to carry and drop at altitude a small rocket that will then light its engine, and will propel to space to place satellites in orbit.

Stratolaunch was developed by Northrop Grumman division Scaled Composites for Stratolaunch Systems Corporation, a company founded in 2011 by American billionaire and Microsoft co-founder Paul G. Allen.

The plane, built by Stratolaunch Systems Corp, stayed aloft for more than two hours hitting a top speed of 304km per hour and reached an altitude of 5,182m.

The Stratolaunch itself has the largest wingspan of any aircraft on Earth at 385 feet, wider than a football field including the endzones; it even has two dozen feet to spare.

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

"It's these possibilities that drove us to develop the world's largest plane, which acts as a launch pad in the sky, bypassing numerous hazards that cause ground-launch delays here on Earth". The reinforced centre wing can support multiple launch vehicles, weighing up to a total of 500,000 pounds (2,26,796 kg).

"We all know Paul would have been proud to witness today's historic achievement".

The aircraft takeoff was early Saturday morning at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California. While in-flight, several tests were conducted to evaluate the aircraft flight control systems and test the handling.

The jet is powered by the same type of engines used by Boeing 747s and is created to take off at a maximum weight 589,676 kilograms. We do this by enabling convenient, affordable, and routine, airline-style access to space that empowers the world's problem solvers - so that they can collect rich and actionable data and drive advancements in science, research, and technology from space.

While Stratolaunch calls its aircraft the world's largest, other airplanes exceed it in length from nose to tail.

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