Looking like the airplane version of Siamese twins, the world’s largest airplane took flight for a 150-minute inaugural flight. Built by Stratolaunch, the plane weighs in at an incredible 500,000 pounds and has a 385-foot wingspan and a length of 238 feet. The plane is a dual-fuselage design (it has two cabins, but only one is used to fly the plane) and is meant to fly at an altitude of 35,000 feet.
The idea behind the behemoth is to take rockets to that altitude where they can then ignite their engines and boost themselves into orbit. The airplane looks to create a new business model for the company centred on making getting a satellite into space: “As easy as booking an airline flight.”
Test pilot Evan Thomas said, “The flight itself was smooth, which is exactly what you want a first flight to be. It flew very much like we had simulated and like we had predicted.” Stratolaunch stated that the plane’s systems “ran like a watch.” The flight marks the culmination of several incremental tests that have been performed over a period of years, including an engine test in 2017. During the flight, the plane reached an altitude of 15,000 feet and a top speed of 173 miles per hour.
This isn’t the end of the road for the plane. It will still have to go through many more test flights before the FAA will clear it. Stratolaunch plans on the plane launching its first satellite sometime next year.