When is put into use, Stratolaunch will become the world’s largest plane. And with a wingspan longer than a football field, it will be hard for any other country to match it. The aircraft is so massive because its sole purpose is to launch rockets into space. And now a year before it was scheduled for a 2019 test, the plane taxied down a runway, clocking in its speed a 46 miles per hour.
Stratolaunch has two massive fuselages which can carry rockets between them. It has six engines and a 385-foot wingspan.
The aircraft uses six Pratt & Whitney turbofan engines. And a quick look at them will show you how massive this plane is.
The plane was first unveiled in June 2017. Co-founder of Microsoft, Paul Allen, was the man behind the plan.
The plane rolled down the runway at 46 miles per hour, which was part of its low-speed taxi test. And as it did, all six of its 8,940-pound engines were roaring.
Because this aircraft is so expensive, Allen wants to perform plenty of tests on it before putting it into use. But when the Stratolaunch is done, it will fire satellites and other rockets into outer space. And one of its proposed ‘passengers’ would be the “Dream Chaser,” which is a spaceship that has the capability of shuttling astronauts to and from Earth and something in orbit in fewer than 24 hours.
The airplane is so large that it uses two fuselages, each with its own cockpit.
But you may see this plane in the skies as early as 2019.
The taxi test was conducted at California’s Mojave Air and Space Port. Engineers tested the plane’s ability to steer and stop on cue. And it passed with flying colors.
Microsoft billionaire Paul Allen hopes this airplane will be a giant launch pad in the sky. He hopes it can get payloads into space cheaper and faster than methods of today.
In a statement on Twitter, Allen wrote: “Captured new video of @Stratolaunch plane as it reached a top taxi speed of 40 knots (46 mph) with all flight surfaces in place on Sunday. The team verified control responses, building on the first taxi tests conducted in December.”
When it is ready for takeoff, the Stratolaunch will need three crew members including a pilot, co-pilot and flight engineer. They will all sit in the right-hand fuselage. In the left, there will be no one. It may look like a regular cockpit, but it will be unmanned and unpressurized.
The plane weights about half a million pounds. And that’s when it is not carrying cargo. And when it is loaded with space rockets, it can carry a takeoff weight of 1.3 million pounds, The Verge reported.
The plane uses 28 wheels to navigate the runway. And six 747 aircraft engines will power it when it is in flight.
Paul Allen imagines the Stratolaunch to be an airborne rocket launcher. Because nothing like this has ever existed before, it could cut costs for scientists and organizations like NASA, which engage in space exploration and research. Previous launches were done form launch pads, which require tremendous amounts of fuel.