Watch: The World's Largest Plane Just Flew for the First Time, Stratolaunch
Video Channel: Defense Barta
After years of development in the desert north of Los Angeles, a gigantic, six-engined mega jet with the wingspan of an American football field flew Saturday morning for the first time.
Strato launch Systems, the company founded in 2011 by the late Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, conducted the first test flight of the world's largest plane.
Basically, Strato launch aircraft is a giant flying launch pad, designed to hurtle satellites into low Earth orbit. It aims to offer the military, private companies and even NASA itself a more economical way to get into space.
"Whatever the payload, whatever the orbit, getting your satellite into space will soon be as easy as booking an airline flight," said C E O Jean Floyd in 2018 .
The aircraft's wingspan measures 385 feet, wider than any airplane on the planet. From tip to tail, it's 238 feet long. It weighs half a million pounds. It's so big, it has two cockpits, one in each fuselage but only one is used to fly the plane.
Here is how Strato launch is supposed to work once the plane is fully tested and certified: The jet, carrying a rocket loaded with a satellite, will take off from Mo jave desert and climb to an altitude of 35,000 feet. There pilots will launch the rocket from the plane on a trajectory toward space. The plane then will land safety back at Mo jave desert, while the rocket carries the satellite into an orbit ranging from about 300 miles to 1,200 miles above Earth. The rocket deploys the satellite before eventually falling back to Earth, burning up in the sky like a meteor.
If all goes as planned, Strato launch said the plane is expected to launch its first satellite sometime next year.