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The Antonov held the title of world’s largest plane from 1988 until last week, when the “Stratolaunch” was unveiled.
Stratolaunch Systems, a company backed by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, rolled out the gargantuan aircraft at its hangar at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California, where construction of the aircraft began a few years back.
With a wingspan measuring 385 feet, Stratolaunch is the world’s largest aircraft by wingspan and the largest all-composite aircraft ever built. Powered by six Boeing 747 engines, the aircraft has a payload capacity of over 500,000 pounds and an operational range of about 2,000 nautical miles (about 2,300 miles).
In line with Allen’s goal of achieving convenient, reliable and routine access to low Earth orbit, Stratolaunch was designed to launch medium-sized payloads using a version of SpaceX‘s Falcon 9 rocket. The partnership, however, didn’t last long, with both companies parting ways just a little over a year later. For now, Stratolaunch Systems is focused on the growing demand for small satellites, partnering with Orbital ATK to launch up to three Pegasus XL rockets between the two fuselages.
“This marks the completion of the initial aircraft construction phase and the beginning of the aircraft ground and flight testing phase,” said Jean Floyd, Chief Executive of Stratolaunch Systems, in a statement about the rollout. According to the company, the program is expected to perform its first launch demonstration in 2019.
Who else is as excited as we are to see this thing fly?
Featured image courtesy of Stratolaunch Systems.
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