World's biggest plane flies for the first time

Lester Mason
April 14, 2019

The world's largest aircraft, developed by aerospace venture Stratolaunch, completed its first flight test on Saturday. "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".

The massive, twin-fuselage Stratolaunch jet created to air-launch rockets into orbit lifted off from Mojave Air and Space Port early Saturday.

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, according to the company's statement.

The plane reached speeds of 189 miles per hour (304 km/h) and performed several flight control maneuvers, including "roll doublets, yawing maneuvers, pushovers and pull-ups, and steady heading side slips", the manufacturer Stratolaunch said in a statement.

"Today's flight furthers our mission to provide a flexible alternative to ground launched systems, Mr Floyd said". The aircraft performed a variety of flight control maneuvers to calibrate speed and test flight control systems, including roll doublets, yawing maneuvers, pushovers and pull-ups, and steady heading side slips. It may one day also launch passenger shuttles into space. The aircraft is created to take rockets weighing as much as 400,000 pounds to 35,000 feet for launch and will tap into the burgeoning market for communications, reconnaissance and broadband satellites being put between 300 and 1,200 miles in altitude. Rockets with orbital payloads will be mounted to the center wing of the aircraft, which will then be flown to an altitude of around 35,000 feet. "This is a historic development giving hopes to smooth space journey in future", says an Indian space scientist. "It definitely was ready to fly and wanted to fly and climbed out quickly". "It flew very much like we had simulated and like we predicted".

The test flight came after a series of taxi tests of the plane at increasing speeds, culminating with one January 10 where the plane's nose gear briefly left the ground. They include the six-engine Antonov AN 225 cargo plane, which is 275.5 feet (84 meters) long, and the Boeing 747-8, which is just over 250 feet (76.3 meters) long. Stratolaunch would then return to the runway.

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