Stratolaunch: First Flight Taken by the Largest Aircraft in History
Last updated on April 16th, 2019
Stratolaunch, the largest carrier aircraft created in the history, took off for the very first time on Saturday morning. It was the dream of late Paul Allen, which has been fulfilled by Scaled Composites, a subsidiary of Northrop Grumman.
A billionaire and co-founder of Microsoft, Allen was often amazed with the ability of small satellites to monitor Earth’s environment and thereby announced building the world’s largest plane in 2011. Unfortunately, he could not survive long enough to fulfill his dream.
After his death, Scaled Composites built Stratolaunch in a way that it would carry about three rockets attached to its belly into the sky, the rockets would then drop, ignite, and then shoot off into the space with their payloads. The reason behind launching the rockets from the belly of a plane instead of launching it vertically from the launch site was to reduce the cost of space missions. Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic uses the same model with the further development of a space plane capable of taking people to the edge of space.
The plane – which is huge in size and has great power – consists of a twin fuselage, along with 28 wheels, six 747-jet engines and a wingspan longer than a football field, including the end zones. Heather Wilson, Air Force Secretary, and Mike Pence, Vice President and Head of the National Space Council, visited the plane.
On Saturday morning, the aircraft flew from Mojave Air and Space Port in the California desert and stayed high above the ground for around 2.5 hours, hitting an altitude of 17,000 feet and a maximum speed of 189 mph.
Stratolaunch Systems Corp. chief executive Jean Floyd claimed his team’s victory (CBC) in creating the aircraft. He said it was inspiring “to see Paul Allen’s dream come to life”.
Stratolaunch has become the largest plane by wingspan to take to the skies and the company hopes to use the twin-fuselage, six-engine, and catamaran-style aircraft to launch satellite-bearing rockets into the space in the coming years.
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