By Agence-France Press
WASHINGTON D.C., April 13, 2019 – The world’s largest airplane — a Stratolaunch behemoth with two fuselages and six Boeing 747 engines — made its first test flight today from the Mojave desert in California.
The mega jet carried out its maiden voyage and flew for about two and a half hours. It hit a top speed of 189 miles per hour or 304 kilometers an hour, and reached an altitude of 17,000 feet, or 5,182 meters. Until now, it had just carried out tests on the groundThis airplane is designed to carry into space, and drop a rocket that would in turn, ignite to launch satellites. It is supposed to provide a more flexible way to deploy satellites than vertical takeoff rockets because this way all that is needed is a long runway for takeoff.
It was built by the engineering firm Scaled Composites. The aircraft is so wide that its wingspan is longer than a football field, or about 1.5 times that of an Airbus A380. The wingspan is 117 meters, which is almost 384 feet wide. That of an Airbus A380 is 262 feet or about 80 meters.
“What a fantastic first flight,” said Jean Floyd, CEO of Stratolaunch. “Today’s flight furthers our mission to provide a flexible alternative to ground-launched systems,” he added. This company was financed by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, as a way to get into the market for launching small satellites. But Allen died in October 2018, so the future is uncertain for this firm.