The world’s largest aircraft – Stratolaunch – took off its first flight from Mojave Air and Space Port in California, Los Angeles, a few minutes before 7 a.m. (Pacific Time 1400GMT). The largest aircraft is developed by Stratolaunch Systems Corp, started by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen.
The aircraft flew at the maximum altitude of 17,000 feet at a speed of 340km/hour. The flight lasted for two hours and 30 minutes, before it landed back safely to the Mojave Desert. The wingspan of Stratolaunch measuring the length of an American football filed. The aircraft is powered by six Pratt & Whitney PW4056 turbofan engines, which were also seen in the Airbus A300, Boeing 747-400 and Boeing 767.
The company has designed the Stratolaunch to propel space rockets upto a weight of 500,000 lbs (226,796 kg). The company is said to be experimenting with four different rocket systems, that can be pushed into space from the centre wing part of the aircraft. The first launch tests could happen sometime in 2020 with a payload of up to 816 lb (370 kg). With Stratolaunch, the company aims to make satellite deployment as easy as booking a flight ticket.
‘Today’s flight furthers our mission to provide a flexible alternative to ground launched systems. We are incredibly proud of the Stratolaunch team, today’s flight crew, our partners at Northrup Grumman’s Scaled Composites and the Mojave Air and Space Port,’ said Jean Floyd, CEO of Stratolaunch.
In 2011, Allen started the privately funded Stratolaunch. Allen died in October 2018, a few months after the Stratolaunch development was unveiled.