World's Largest Aircraft 'Roc' Makes First Flight over Mojave Desert in California


Allen, today successfully completed the first flight of the world's largest all-composite aircraft, the Stratolaunch.

The 117-meter wide plane took off from a runway in California's Mohave Desert and flew for 2.5 hours at altitudes of up to 5,000 meters at speeds of up to 304 km/h.

"Today's flight furthers our mission to provide a flexible alternative to ground launched systems", said Stratolaunch CEO Jean Floyd.

The very big, six-engine aircraft known as Stratolaunch has a 385-foot wingspan, weighs about 500,000 pounds and is the dream of late Microsoft co-founder Paul G. Allen. The American business magnate, who co-founded Microsoft along with Bill Gates in 1975, died of cancer in October past year at the age of 65.

The aircraft is created to carry as many as three satellite-laden rockets at a time under the centre of its enormous wing, which stretches 117 metres - a longer wingspan than any other aircraft.

Stratolaunch, the world's largest airplane with a 385-foot wingspan, took off and successfully landed for the first time in the California desert on Saturday. It must theoretically be used to carry and drop at altitude a small rocket that will then light its engine, and will propel to space to place satellites in orbit.

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"The aircraft is a remarkable engineering achievement and we congratulate everyone involved".

With twin fuselages and a wing of a size of a football field, the big "Stratolaunch" plane is created to make propelling rockets into space easier and cheaper than traditional ground-based launch pads.

Stratolaunch was formerly partnered with SpaceX, but the latter ended that partnership to focus on launching their reusable rockets.

"A historic milestone for the #Stratolaunch team with this record setting aircraft taking flight!"

The previous wingspan leader was Howard Hughes' World War II-era eight-engine H-4 Hercules flying boat - nicknamed the Spruce Goose. Stratolaunch has now made a deal with Northrop Grumman to launch their Pegasus rockets, the first privately developed rocket and the first to use an aircraft to launch it.

Its wings stretch about 97.5-meters and can still be seen today at an aviation museum in Oregon.