Stratolaunch, a rocket launch company, has been working on the world’s largest airplane (by wingspan) for quite some time now. The airplane took off for the very first time on Saturday morning. With a 385 foot wingspan, the behemoth weighs 500,000 pounds and certainly dwarfs even the biggest passenger jets like the Airbus A380 and the Boeing 747. It lifted off for the first time from the Mojave Air and Space Port in Mojave, California.
This airplane isn’t meant to ferry passengers from one point to the other. It has actually been designed to launch rockets into orbit from the air. The first flight of this airplane lasted for over two hours after which the plane landed safely, according to Stratolaunch.
This dual-fuselage airplane has been designed to fly at an altitude of 35,000 from where it can drop rockets that then ignite their own engines and boost themselves into orbit. There was no rocket on this initial test flight but at least one company, Northrop Grumman, has signed up with Stratolaunch to fire its Pegasus XL rocket into space using this platform.
According to the test pilot Evan Thomas “The flight itself was smooth, which is exactly what you want a first flight to be,” and he added that “It flew very much like we had simulated and like we predicted.” The company also said that the plane’s systems ran like a watch and that it landed “on the market” after a few low passes.