World’s largest plane makes first test flight

Virgin Orbit plans to use a customized Boeing 747-400 to compete with Stratolaunch

Allen, today successfully completed the first flight of the world's largest all-composite aircraft, the Stratolaunch.

To complete this task, the aircraft is equipped with six engines, two fuselages instead of one, and a wing longer than a United States football field, which makes it the largest plane ever built in terms of wingspan.

Test pilot Evan Thomas flew the jet to speeds of about 173 mph, climbing as high as 15,000 feet before returning smoothly and safely back, after a almost two-and-a-half-hour flight.

Built by Stratolaunch Systems Corporation, the company founded by Paul G Allen, late Microsoft co-founder, Stratolaunch has a dual fuselage design.

While Stratolaunch called its 73-metre-long aircraft the world's largest, other airplanes exceed it in length from nose to tail.

The plane, built by Stratolaunch Systems Corp, stayed aloft for more than two hours hitting a top speed of 304km per hour and reached an altitude of 5,182m. Floyd went on to remark, "Today's flight furthers our mission to provide a flexible alternative to ground launched systems".

After Allen's death in October, Stratolaunch dropped plans to develop its own rocket engine and a family of launch vehicles, focusing instead on getting the giant plane airborne and launching Northrop Grumman's proven Pegasus XL.

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The Stratolaunch aircraft is a mobile launch platform that will enable airline-style access to space that is convenient, affordable and routine.

Saturday's first-ever test flight of Stratolaunch was flown by experimental test pilot Evan Thomas.

Stratolaunch aircraft first emerged from its Mojave hangar in 2017 and underwent ground tests, including taxiing and rolling down a runway at near-takeoff speeds.

In other words, this isn't your typical airplane. The plane then will land safety back at Mojave, while the rocket carries the satellite into an orbit ranging from about 300 miles to 1,200 miles above Earth. "It's the same reason why people tune in each year to watch the Apple keynotes".

The airplane's six Pratt & Whitney engines and 28-wheel landing gear were originally designed for Boeing 747s, but aerospace company Scaled Composites worked alongside Stratolaunch and repurposed three 747s to put it together.

The company is now developing four different rocket systems, which can be launched to space from the center wing part of the aircraft.

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