Launching the Largest Plane in the World
(Source: Scaled Composites; issued April 14, 2019)
The record-setting Stratolaunch carrier aircraft first took to the skies on April 13, 2019, staying aloft for 149 minutes, and successfully landing back in Mojave. Since 2012, we've been designing, building, and testing the world's largest composite aircraft for Stratolaunch, a Paul G. Allen company.
The goal of this mobile launch system is to make orbital access to space more convenient, reliable, and routine.
The large aircraft project has been an idea our founder, Burt Rutan, has played with for over 20 years. Various designs have been explored as customer interest came and went. Ultimately, in 2011 Paul Allen agreed to pursue this project. Prior to the final contract, Scaled worked to validate fabrication costs by building demonstration pieces to lower the cost of pounds of material labor to man hour.
This factor drove the overarching design of the aircraft - flat-sided fuselages with a mostly straight wing.
Stratolaunch: World's Largest Aircraft Completes First Test Flight
(Source: Deutsche Welle German Radio; issued April 13, 2019)
The Stratolaunch aircraft is designed to launch satellites and eventually passengers into space. The plane has two fuselages, 28 wheels, six engines and a wingspan almost double that of an Airbus A380.
The world's largest aircraft successfully completed its first test flight on Saturday.
The massive plane with a wingspan larger than a football field took off from an airfield in California's Mojave Desert and conducted testing exercises for 2.5 hours, according to Stratolaunch Systems, the space transportation company behind the project.
During the flight, the Stratolaunch aircraft reached a maximum speed of 189 miles per hour (304 kilometers) and altitude of 17,000 feet (5,182 meters).
The aircraft with a wing span of 117 meters weighs 220 tons, has two connected fuselages and 28 wheels, and is powered by six Boeing 747 engines.
Stratolaunch is designed to be a mobile platform for launching satellites into space. It may one day also launch passenger shuttles into space.
"Today's flight furthers our mission to provide a flexible alternative to ground launched systems," Stratolaunch CEO Jean Floyd said.
The project was developed by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, who died last October.
"We all know Paul would have been proud to witness today's historic achievement," said Jody Allen, chair of Vulcan Inc. and trustee of the Paul G. Allen Trust. "The aircraft is a remarkable engineering achievement and we congratulate everyone involved."