The world’s largest aircraft by wingspan, which has a wingspan of 385 feet, took off for the first time ever. It has been developed and built by Stratolaunch Systems Corp, an organization founded in 2011 by the late Paul Allen, who founded Microsoft with Bill Gates.
The plane is powered by six engines on a twin-fuselage.
On its maiden flight, the plane stayed aloft for around two and a half hours, flew to an altitude of 17,000 ft, and reached speeds of over 180 miles per hour. Subsequently, it landed safely at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California.
— Stratolaunch (@Stratolaunch) April 13, 2019
With a view to making a foray into the space market, the plane has been designed to act as a flying launch pad for satellites. The proposed plan is to fly the plane to a height of 10 kms before releasing the satellites into orbit. If successful, it will be an economically feasible way to launch satellites, much cheaper than using rockets fired from the ground. Stratolaunch also claims that this mode of launching satellites will reduce the delays that otherwise occur due to factors such as poor weather conditions when using traditional ground launches.
Stratolaunch plans to begin launching rockets by 2020. It faces stiff competition from Elon Musk’s Tesla and the United Launch Alliance, a joint venture between Lockheed Martin Space Systems and Boeing Defense, and Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic.
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