Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen on Wednesday unveiled the world’s largest plane at the California desert. The ‘Stratolaunch’ has a 385-foot wingspan and is designed to release rockets to carry satellites into space. The world’s largest plane features six engines used by the Boeing 747. Though it cannot carry passengers, it can carry more than 500,000 pounds of payload.
The plane, that will be saving jet fuel, is expected to demonstrate its first launch in 2019. It is also expected to reduce the cost of sending cargo into space. The twin-fuselage aircraft with 28 wheels was pulled out of its Mojave Air and Space Port hangar in California on Wednesday. Stratolaunch’s chief executive officer Jean Floyd said that they will be conducting several ground and flight line tests in the coming months.
The reusable launch platform is aimed at significantly reducing the long wait times that is usually experienced from the time that a satellite is constructed to the time it is launched into space. With a huge wingspan, ‘Stratolaunch’ has surpassed Howard Hughes’ “Spruce Goose” to become the largest plane in the world. “Spruce Goose” was an enormous wooden plane which made its first flight in 1947.
— Paul Allen (@PaulGAllen) May 31, 2017
Allen, who co-founded Microsoft with Bill Gates in 1975, was obsessed with rockets since he was a child. Though he left Microsoft in 1982, he held back a sizeable stake in the company. Announced in 2011, the Stratolaunch project can launch multiple rockets.
— Emily Calandrelli (@TheSpaceGal) May 31, 2017
After taking off from a runway, Stratolaunch will fly to the approximate cruising altitude of a commercial airliner. After the launch vehicle rockets into orbit, the Stratolaunch will return to the runway for reloading, refueling and reuse.
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