Stratolaunch jet with 117-metre wingspan takes off for first flight


The world's biggest plane by wingspan has taken off for the first time ever.

Stratolaunch, claimed as the world's largest all-composite plane by wingspan, successfully completed its first flight on Saturday.

The 117-meter wide plane took off from a runway in California's Mohave Desert and flew for 2.5 hours at altitudes of up to 5,000 meters at speeds of up to 304 km/h.

Jean Floyd, CEO of Stratolaunch confirmed: "What a fantastic first flight, today's flight furthers our mission to provide a flexible alternative to ground launched systems". It could potentially enable airline-style access to space flight, making the journey both routine and affordable for everyday passengers. Stratolaunch, which was founded by Allen, is vying to be a contender in the market for air-launching small satellites.

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 pilot Evan Thomas told journalists the experience was "awesome" and that " the plane flew as anticipated".

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The Stratolaunch is the furthest into the development of future rocket bearing aircraft, but it isn't alone.

As Stratolaunch embarks on the long and costly certification process for the aircraft, Virgin Orbit is preparing to launch a competitive service using the long-established Boeing 747-400 as its platform.

With the Stratolaunch, an aircraft that transports its artifacts between its two fuselages, the great advantage is its enormous capacity of external transport. Allen died of lymphoma in October 2018, only a handful of months before his creation could take flight for the first time.

Stratolaunch is created to be a mobile platform for launching satellites into space. During the first phase of the flight, Stratolaunch tested the airplane's handling qualities. The aircraft performed a variety of flight control maneuvers to calibrate speed and test flight control systems, including roll doublets, yawing maneuvers, pushovers and pull-ups, and steady heading side slips. The aircraft is created to release rockets attached to the center of its enormous wing, which stretches 385 feet (117 meters) from tip to tip.

"The airplane felt really nice on the touchdown, gear felt good", Thomas said.