The World's Biggest Plane Takes Flight

The company reported the airplane hit speeds of 189mph and heights of 17,000 feet during its 150-minute test flight, before landing safely at the Mojave Air and Space Port.

While you were taking it easy enjoying some much-needed R&R, on Saturday, April 15th, 2019, Stratolaunch, the worlds largest airplane took to the skies for the very first time. The Plane andthe company that built it is the brainchild of Paul Allen, the Microsoft Co-Founder who passed away last October at age 65 from complications related to non-Hodgkin lymphoma.


Allen, a longtime space enthusiast, and all-around nerd launched the firm eight years ago with the help of now Stratolaunch CEO Jean Floyd. An aircraft of such magnitude is meant to assist NASA and other private parties in launching Satellites into near earth orbit for a fraction of the current costs.


Saturday's flight is expected to be the first of many and the company expects to use the twin-fuselage, six-engined, catamaran-style aircraft to launch satellite-bearing rockets into space by 2022. The FDA will still have to issue various approvals before Stratolaunch can begin taking on customers. On Saturday, however, a major hurdle was cleared, both for the company and for the industry as a whole.


"All of you have been very patient and very tolerant over the years waiting for us to get this big bird off the ground, and we finally did it," Stratolaunch CEO Jean Floyd told reporters on a press call.


The company reported the airplane hit speeds of 189mph and heights of 17,000 feet during its 150-minute test flight, before landing safely at the Mojave Air and Space Port.



"The systems on the airplane ran like a watch," test pilot Evan Thomas told reporters.


The airplane's six Pratt & Whitney engines and 28-wheel landing gear were originally designed for Boeing 747s. In fact, the aerospace company Scaled Composites, which worked with Stratolaunch to build the aircraft, saved money by repurposing three 747s to put it together.


The aircraft fills almost every corner of its approximately 100,000-square-foot hangar in the Mojave Air and Space Port. Its maximum takeoff weight is 1.3 million pounds. (It's also worth noting that while the plane is the largest in terms of wingspan, other planes exceed it in length.)



It is also worth noting that Stratolaunch is not the only company vying for customers in this niche segment of the space travel industry, Richard Branson's Virgin Orbit company seeks to run its own test of a modified Boeing 747 later this year—an airplane also built to carry satellite-bearing rockets into orbit.


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