Published: Tue, April 16, 2019
Finance | By Kristine Clayton

World's largest plane takes to the skies over California

World's largest plane takes to the skies over California

The plane flew for 2.5 hours over the Mojave desert at altitudes up to 17,000 feet during which pilots evaluated aircraft performance and handling qualities before landing it successfully back at the Mojave space port. It aims to make access to orbit more affordable and accessible by launching satellites into space from aircraft, rather than from the ground.

"All of you've 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", Jean Floyd, chief executive of Stratolaunch, said at the briefing.

The craft has been developed by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, who plans to strap rockets under the wings, fly to 35,000 and then release them.

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.

The twin-fuselage Stratolaunch jet lifted off from Mojave Air and Space Port shortly before 7 a.m. and climbed into the desert sky 70 miles north of Los Angeles.

A giant aircraft with the world's longest wingspan has landed after its first ever flight.

Stratolaunch has said that it intends to launch its first rockets from the Roc in 2020 at the earliest. Cheap to the extent that it becomes as easy as booking an airline flight ticket. There's great demand for a way to launch rockets more cheaply and from more locations, and enormous aircraft are reusable (unlike many rockets), can take off from most large airports and their flights are less weather dependent. "It's so huge, it seems like it shouldn't be able to fly", Jack Beyer, an aerospace and launch photographer for NASASpaceFlight.com, told CNN on Thursday. "It's the same reason why people tune in each year to watch the Apple keynotes".

Powered by the same type of engines used by Boeing 747s, the aircraft is created to take off at a maximum weight of 1.3m pounds.

Allen died last October at age 65 from complications related to non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

Stratolaunch's goal is to make satellite launches easy and cheap. "Really, for a first flight, it was spot on".

Nearly 116 years after the Wright Brothers created history at Kitty Hawk with the first heavier than air flight ever for 12 seconds, another piece of aviation history was created at Nojav in California on Saturday.

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