The world’s largest aircraft completed its first flight test on Saturday, achieving a maximum speed of 189 miles per hour (302.4 km per hour). The plane developed by aerospace venture Stratolaunch (set up by the late Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen in 2011) flew for 2.5 hours over the Mojave Desert at altitudes up to 17,000 feet.
The plane has a dual fuselage design and its wingspan is greater than the length of an American football field. As per the information provided on the Stratolaunch website, the test flight took off from Mojave Air and Space Port in California at 6:58 am Pacific Time (7:28 pm India time).
As part of the initial flight, the pilots evaluated aircraft performance and handling qualities before landing successfully back at the Mojave Air and Space Port, Stratolaunch said in a statement. The test team conducted standard aircraft testing exercise including a variety of flight control manoeuvres to calibrate speed and test flight control systems
What is the purpose of the world’s largest plane?
The Stratolaunch aircraft is designed to act as a flying launch pad for satellites and put payloads in orbit. With 117 meters wingspan and 73 meters nose-to-tail length, the company describes its aircraft as the “world’s largest plane”. While it does have the largest wingspan, it does not have the longest nose-to-tail length.
The mobile launch platform aims to enable airline-style access to space as its centre wing can support multiple launch vehicles, weighing up to a total of 500,000 pounds. According to their website, Stratolaunch wants to “make access to orbit as routine as catching a commercial airline flight is today”.
Jean Floyd, the 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.”