The world’s largest aircraft has rolled out of its hangar for the first time, with plans to be fully operational by the end of the decade.
The brainchild of Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft – the twin-fuselage Stratolaunch has a wingspan of around 120 metres, and features six Boeing B747 engines and 27 wheels.
The aircraft has been designed to launch satellites from low-earth orbit, which would “significantly reduce the risk of costly delays or cancellations” compared to ground launches.
According to the Stratolaunch website the company’s vision is that “normalising access to low Earth orbit (LEO) has the potential to redefine our lives by creating more opportunities for commercial, philanthropic and governmental organisations to collect rich and actionable data and drive advancements in science, research, and technology from space”.
The group’s CEO Jean Floyd said that “Over the coming weeks and months, we’ll be actively conducting ground and flightline testing at the Mojave Air and Space Port”, with the aim of performing the first launch demonstration “as early as 2019”.