A firm associated with the co-founder of Microsoft, Paul Allen, has launched the largest plane in the world. Named Stratolaunch the twin-fuselage plane is now scheduled to undertake fueling tests after it was pulled out from its hangar in Mojave Air and Space Port located in the state of California. Designed to ferry satellites into space, a launch demonstration is planned for 2019 according to the chief executive officer of Stratolaunch, Jean Floyd.
“Over the coming weeks and months, we’ll be actively conducting ground and flight line testing at the Mojave Air and Space Port. This is a first-of-its-kind aircraft, so we’re going to be diligent throughout testing,” read a statement from Floyd.
Low Earth Orbit launch missions
During launch missions the largest plane in the world will carry a maximum of three rockets which will be attached to the wing’s center right between the twin fuselages. The rockets will then be released before they ignite their engines to transport small satellites that weigh about 1,000 pounds to LEO – Low Earth Orbit. Once the rockets have been released, the Stratolaunch will return and land on a runaway just like a commercial airliner for refueling, reloading and reuse.
Some of the advantages of the Stratolaunch with regards to launching satellites include the fact that it can make use of numerous airports and thus avoid the limitations that come with fixed launch sites such as weather impact and having to make other considerations such as ship traffic and air traffic. Using the stratolaunch will also reduce the costs of launching satellites into low earth orbit. It will also reduce the wait times between a satellite’s construction and its launch into space.
Not the longest
The largest plane in the world, which has a wingspan measuring 385 feet, runs on six Boeing 747 engines. It is 50 feet tall with a weight of 500,000 pounds and a carrying capacity of 250,000 pounds. The Stratolaunch possesses 28 wheels. Though the Stratolaunch possesses the biggest wingspan it is not as long as the Antonov An-225 cargo plan which runs on six engines and whose original purpose was to carry a space shuttle for the Soviet Union. The length of the An-225 is 275 feet while that of the Stratolaunch is 238 feet.
In an agreement that was reached in 2016, Stratolaunch will make use of winged rockets named Pegasus XL and supplied by the Dulles, Virginia-based Orbital ATK.