With 117-metre wingspan - completes first flight

14 April, 2019, 06:42 | Author: Darnell Taylor
  • Stratolaunch pops a wheelie during January's high-speed taxi test

During the flight, the Stratolaunch aircraft reached a maximum speed of 189 miles per hour (304 kilometers) and altitude of 17,000 feet (5,182 meters).

The Stratolaunch itself has the largest wingspan of any aircraft on Earth at 385 feet, wider than a football field including the endzones; it even has two dozen feet to spare.

British billionaire Richard Branson's company Virgin Galactic has also developed aircraft that launch rockets into orbit from great height.

This handout photograph obtained courtesy of Stratolaunch shows the Stratolaunch plane flying over the California desert, April 13, 2019, the first test flight of the U.S. company's huge aircraft whose wingspan is nearly half that of an Airbus A380. The company has already signed at least one customer in Orbital ATK, which plans to use Stratolaunch to send its Pegasus XL rocket into space.

Test pilot Evan Thomas of Scaled Composites LLC, which built the aircraft, said the flight overall was "fantastic" and for the most part the plane flew as predicted.

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Though Stratolaunch is the largest plane by wingspan, another craft, the helium-filled Airlander 10, takes the title of the longest aircraft now flying with a length of 302 feet (92 m).

The plane flew Saturday for about two and a half hours, Stratolaunch said. Allen's partner was specialty aircraft builder Scaled Composites.

But Allen died in October of previous year so the future of the company is uncertain. Stratolaunch, which was founded by Allen, is vying to be a contender in the market for air-launching small satellites.

"The airplane very nicely, smoothly rotated and really just lifted off the ground", he said. "We had a couple of corrections to line up in the slowdown and ended up rolling to a stop pretty much where we wanted to coming off the runway". He did not specify what those things were, and briefing participants did not take questions. That's because there'd be no need for ground launches of rockets.

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