There are plenty of big aircraft up in the sky above us – but none, it seems, quite as imposing as Stratolaunch’s latest creation. The company behind what is believed to be the biggest plane on record successfully launched the aircraft – with pilot – into the sky over this past weekend. But what are some of its amazing statistics?
According to BBC News, the behemoth aircraft has an incredible wingspan of 385 feet, or 117 meters. That, according to sources, is roughly the length of an entire NFL football field. Despite Stratolaunch having only been engineering aircraft since 2011, it seems that CEO Paul Allen is keen to break records while launching satellites.
That, ultimately, is the aircraft’s role. It’s not a passenger plane but a satellite launcher, with the craft looking to reach a maximum height of 6.2 miles, or 10km, before releasing objects which can orbit the Earth. As such, it is being proposed as a gargantuan mobile launchpad for essential satellites.
During testing over the weekend, the jet managed to fly up to 4,572 meters, or 15,000 feet, and hit a top speed of around 274 km/h, or 170 mph. Evan Thomas, who was on board as pilot, described the experience as ‘fantastic’. It seems that things went as smoothly as they could, with the aircraft having landed back on solid ground without any issues. That is, of course, once ground engineers were able to make space!
The self-described ‘largest plane in the world’ may have a colossal wingspan, though it may not be the longest – in terms of being measured from end to end. However, the successful launch and flight over the weekend appears to cement plans for the plane to release satellites into the stratosphere in the years to come.
The World's Largest Plane Takes Off for the First Time [video: Newsy Studio]
Stratolaunch’s own website details the intricacies of the project, and how they aim to make satellite launcher far simpler than ever before. “[…] today, launching satellites into space is still extraordinarily difficult,” the official site explains. “With long wait times, high price tags and costly delays, satellites that belong in space are instead stuck here on Earth.”
“Our mission (and we’ve chosen to accept it) is to make access to orbit as routine as catching a commercial airline flight is today.”
Does this mean we’ll be seeing scores of colossal satellite-launching planes in the near future? If tests continue to operate as successful as this weekend’s, there’s certainly no reason why not.