The Stratolaunch Carrier Plane
Billionaire Paul Allen's private spaceflight company Stratolaunch has just unveiled the world's biggest aircrsaft : a massive carrier plane with a wingspan longer than an entire football field.
The colossal Stratolaunch carrier plane rolled out of its hangar at the Mojave Air and Space Port in Mojave, California, on May 31st to undergo fueling tests. It's the first public look at the full craft —which is designed to launch rockets into orbit from the sky — since construction began "We're excited to announce that Stratolaunch aircraft has reached a major milestone in its journey toward providing convenient, reliable, and routine access to low-Earth orbit," Stratolaunch Systems Corp.
CEO Jean Floyd said in a statement. "This marks the completion of the initial aircraft-construction phase and the beginning of the aircraft ground- and flight-testing phase." The Stratolaunch carrier plane is designed to launch rockets into orbit from an altitude of 30,000 feet (9,100 metres). Initially, the plane will carry a single Pegasus XL rocket built by Orbital ATK, but the craft will eventually be able to carry up to three of those boosters simultaneously, Floyd said. Stratolaunch Systems has been quietly designing and building the rocket-toting plane over the last few years.
"Over the past few weeks, we have removed the fabrication infrastructure, including the three-story scaffolding surrounding the aircraft, and rested the aircraft's full weight on its 28 wheels for the first time," Floyd said. "This was a crucial step in preparing the aircraft for ground testing, engine runs, taxi tests and, ultimately, first flight."
Allen founded Stratolaunch Systems in 2011 with the goal of making access to low-Earth orbit "more convenient, reliable and routine," according to the company's tagline. Allen teamed up with Scaled Composites, a Mojave-based aerospace company founded by Burt Rutan, to build the Stratolaunch carrier plane.