Be ready to be amazed – the largest plane in the world is far larger than you think! Would it surprise you to learn that the most-mammoth plane ever created was built by an aerospace firm – Stratolaunch Systems– belonging to Microsoft co-founder, Paul Allen? From design to delivery, the Stratolaunch has been six years in the making. Interestingly, this plane was fabricated in, none-other, than the Mojave Desert, within the guarded confines of a custom-built hanger.
Details of The Largest Plane in the World
There are planes and, then, there are planes. In this case, we have an absolutely immense piece of aircraft with a wingspan larger than the length of a professional football field, which qualifies this aircraft as the largest in the world, and is purposed to carry rockets into outer-space – namely, the stratosphere. The stratosphere is the layer of the earth’s atmosphere above the troposhere, extending to about 32 miles beyond the surface of the earth. In other-words, the 2nd layer of the atmosphere into space where no weather exists.
The first flights of the Stratolaunch are expected in a few years; and rockets, on board, will be positioned between the two fuselages and fired into space to carry on missions that are overt as well as covert. The Stratolaunch has the capability to deliver unmanned payloads and manned spacecraft into orbit. Once the payload is released, the Stratolaunch will, dutifully, return to earth for its next mission.
The twin-hulled Stratolaunch, on its own, has as dry weight of 500,000 pounds but can increase to a gross take-off weight of over 1.3 million pounds. The plane has the ability to carry payloads up to 550,000 pounds, not to mention, possessing a mission range of 1,000 nautical miles. As an airborne rocket launcher, this aircraft will give rockets a head-start by transporting them into space, since traditional rockets expend a huge amount of energy to fly straight upward through the thick, lower regions of the atmosphere. The spaceflight company, Orbital ATK, plans to use the gargantuan plane to launch its Pegasus XL rocket, used to send small satellites into the outer reaches of the earth’s atmosphere.
The Stratolaunch would easily have impressed the late Howard Huges, whose Spruce Goose had a wingspan of 319 feet – falling short of the wingspan of the Stratolaunch, however, that comes in at 358 feet which triples that of a Boeing 737. Want to take a guess as to how many wheels adorn this monstrosity? In all, 28 wheels support the huge frame, not to mention six Boeing 747 engines that supply the extraordinary power that is required.
Thus far, the aircraft has completed a variety of ground testing including engine runs, fueling tests and taxi tests. The flight-testing phase is in progress at the Mojave Air and Space Port. Mr. Jean Floyd, Chief Executive Officer with Stratolaunch Systems Corporation, states: “We have a lot of exciting activity, ahead, as we enter the testing process. This is a first-of-its-kind aircraft, so we are going to be diligent throughout testing and continue to prioritize the safety of our pilots, crew and staff. We look forward to sharing our progress during the coming months.” Ultimately, a courageous flight crew will take this plane to the skies for the first time under an experimental certification from the FAA.
It is expected, by 2019, that the Stratolaunch will perform its first official space flight – Yes, Mr. Hughes would have been very impressed!