Largest airplane in the world has the Stratolaunch finished its maiden test flight late this week by flying for two and a half hours around Mojave Desert of California. The enormous plane which has a wingspan of 385 feet and is almost as large as a football field flew at an altitude of 17000 feet at a speed of 189 miles per hour. This huge plane requires two fuselages and 6 Boeing 747 engines to fly and can launch rockets from air. It has an air launch system that allows it carry rockets to a height of about 35000 feet and dropped them at designated locations.
The advantage of a system like this is its flexibility to fly out of traditional runways that will enable quick turnaround time between each launch. The firm has partnerships with several private players for launch of rockets and also internal plans. It was earlier in contract with SpaceX to launch its rockets but then it stepped into another contract with Northrop Grumman’s Orbital ATK to take the Pegeasus XL rocket. The previous plan of Stratolaunch to develop its own rocket fleet was abandoned in January.
Vulcan, which manages late Paul Allen’s estate, also owns Stratolaunch Systems that was founded in 2011 in partnership with Scaled Composites. Though he passed away the same year his dream was carried forward by Vulcan and Jody Allen the trustee of Paul G. Allen trust declared that the historic achievement would have made him proud. His sudden death was the chief reason behind the shift in plans of Stratolaunch’s plans when it ended development of its rocket engines and laid-off nearly half of its 80 employees. As per analysts the cutbacks of Stratolaunch which coincided with similar lay-offs at Virgin Galactic and SpaceX do not indicate a major downturn of the industry.