Stratolaunch: World’s largest aircraft takes to the sky

Boasting a wingspan of 385ft, the Stratolaunch is designed to support multiple launch vehicles weighing up to a combined total of 500,000 pounds
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Taking off at 0658 PDT on 13 April from Mojave Air & Space Port, the aircraft reached a maximum speed of 189 miles per hour and an altitude of 17,000 feet. (Image courtesy of Stratolaunch Systems Corporation)
Stratolaunch Systems Corp
Taking off at 0658 PDT on 13 April from Mojave Air & Space Port, the aircraft reached a maximum speed of 189 miles per hour and an altitude of 17,000 feet. (Image courtesy of Stratolaunch Systems Corporation)

Stratolaunch Systems Corporation, US-based space transportation firm founded by the late Paull G. Allen, successfully completed the maiden flight of the Stratolaunch aircraft. Dubbed the world’s largest all-composite aircraft, Stratolaunch features a wingspan of 385ft and a nose to tail length of 238ft.

Taking off at 0658 PDT on 13 April from Mojave Air & Space Port, the aircraft reached a maximum speed of 189 miles per hour and an altitude of 17,000 feet. Completing a variety of flight control tests to evaluate the aircraft’s performance and handling, Stratolaunch concluded it's two and half hour flight over the Mojave Desert after successfully landing back at the space port.

Commenting on the flight’s success, Jean Floyd, CEO of Stratolaunch, said: “Today’s flight furthers our mission to provide a flexible alternative to ground-launched systems. We are incredibly proud of the Stratolaunch team, today’s flight crew, our partners at Northrup Grumman’s Scaled Composites and the Mojave Air and Space Port.”

Featuring a max take-off weight of approximately 589,600 kg (1,300,000 lbs), Stratolaunch was designed as a mobile launch platform capable of supporting multiple launch vehicles in flight.

With launch offerings that include the Medium Launch Vehicle (MLV), a medium-class air-launch vehicle for short satellite integration timelines, as well as a reusable space plane with in-orbit capabilities and cargo return, Stratolaunch is capable of carrying an estimated 226,800kg (500,000 pounds) on it wingspan.

Sharing her own viewpoint, Jody Allen, chair of Vulcan Inc. and Trustee of the Paul G. Allen Trust, said: “We all know Paul would have been proud to witness today’s historic achievement.

“The aircraft is a remarkable engineering achievement and we congratulate everyone involved,” she added.

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