| 14.04,19. 12:44 PM |
Stratolaunch jet with 117-metre wingspan takes off for first flight
giant six-engine aircraft with the world's longest wingspan completed
what company officials called a successful initial flight over
California's Mojave Desert, bringing to life a dream held by late
Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen.
Jean Floyd, Stratolaunch Systems chief executive, said the aircraft made a "spectacular" landing that was on the mark.
Stratolaunch, which was founded by Mr Allen, is vying to be a contender in the market for air-launching small satellites. He died in October
was an emotional moment for me, to personally watch this majestic bird
take flight, to see Paul Allen's dream come to life in front of my very
eyes," Mr Floyd told a teleconference briefing.
Mr Floyd said that
as the plane took off, "I did whisper a 'thank you' to Paul for
allowing me to be part of this remarkable achievement".
behemoth, twin-fuselage Stratolaunch jet took off from Mojave Air and
Space Port and climbed into the desert sky 112 kilometres north of Los
The jet flew for two and a half hours,
achieving a maximum speed of 304 kilometres per hour and altitudes up to
17,000 feet (5,181 meters), the company said.
Test pilot Evan Thomas said the flight overall was "fantastic" and for the most part the plane flew as predicted.
"The airplane very nicely, smoothly rotated and really just lifted off the ground," he said.
"It definitely was ready to fly and wanted to fly and climbed out quickly."
Mr Thomas said there were "a few little things that were off-nominal but really for a first flight it was spot on."
aircraft is designed 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.
At an altitude of 35,000 feet (10,668 metres), the rockets would be released, ignite their engines and soar into space.
advantages of such air-launch systems include being able to use
numerous airports and avoid the limitations of fixed launch sites which
can be impacted by weather, air traffic and ship traffic on ocean ranges
While Stratolaunch called its 73-metre-long aircraft the world's largest, other airplanes exceed it in length from nose to tail.
include the six-engine Antonov AN 225 cargo plane, which is 84 metres
long, and the Boeing 747-8, which is just over 76 metres long.