Stratolaunch's mega plane will be used to carry rockets and multiple launch vehicles. The aircraft can take flight in orbit at a high altitude in space. (Image Credit: Stratolaunch)
The Stratolaunch, known as the world's largest all-composite aircraft has completed its first flight with Stratolaunch Systems Corporation. The dual fuselage 385-feet wingspan aircraft launched its flight after 10AM EST from the Mojave Air & Space Port on April 13th. Flight time was measured at 2.5 hours, reaching speeds up to 189 miles per hour, and taking flight over the Mojave Desert at an altitude of 17,000 feet. Pilots were also able to test out the performance of the aircraft and handling qualities just before it landed back at the space port.
The team carried out aircraft tests that included performing several different flight control maneuvers to measure speed and flight control systems like roll doublets, yawing maneuvers, pushovers and pull-ups and steady side slips. They also carried out simulated exercises for landing at sea level, which is 15,000 feet.
The project is part of Paul Allen's dream for Stratolaunch when the company first launched in 2011 and is quite similar to Virgin Galactic's White Knight Two. Stratolaunch will help to reduce the costs of spaceflight by carrying multiple launch vehicles that can weigh up to 500,000 pounds in total. It can also transport rockets at an altitude of up to 35,000 feet, making it easier to launch into orbit in space. They only made it up half that distance. Looking forward to seeing it make a final altitude test flight.
Stratolaunch has had some issues to take care of in the past before testing could be carried out. In 2016, the company had made plans to run flight-tests on the aircraft, but it wasn't ready at the time. Engine tests didn't take place until 2017, and other various tests have been ongoing in the following months. Since those tests have been taken care of with success, the company can carry out its intended goal.
The company may have some difficulties finding customers for their service. So far, the company only has one customer, Northrop Grumman, who has already decided to launch its Pegasus XL rockets with the aircraft, but at this point, it's unclear knowing who else will dedicate their time and resources to the service. The company will likely have to make a bigger push towards landing more customers since it's becoming common to launch some payloads using rockets.
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