Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen rolls out the world's largest plane, and it launches rockets into space

Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen rolls out the world's largest plane, and it launches rockets into space

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A colossal aircraft capable of launching satellite-toting rockets into space is closer to testing, having been rolled out of a hangar in the desert, its creators said on May 31.

A first-of-its-kind aircraft

The project backed by billionaire Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen has been proceeding for about six years and was on track for its first launch demonstration as early as 2019.

Stratolaunch -- touted as the biggest airliner ever built -- will be testing fuel systems, engines and more on the ground at its air and space port in the Mojave desert.

The plane has 28 wheels

Support structures were removed from the plane during the past few weeks, allowing it to rest on its 28 wheels for the first time.

The Stratolaunch aircraft weighed in at 500,000 pounds (226,796 kilograms), according to the company. To draw a parallel, the world’s largest airliner, the double-decker Airbus A380 designed to carry around 550 passengers weighs 610,000 pounds (276,691 kilograms).
Image: Stratolaunch Systems Corporation

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Out of its hangar

A plane this huge has to be very powerful too. The plane is fitted with six Pratt & Whitney engines used on Boeing 747 aircraft and has a maximum takeoff weight of 1.3 million pounds. It will also have an operational range of 2,000 nautical miles.
Image: Stratolaunch Systems Corporation

It's called the Roc

The plane — nicknamed the Roc, after a mythical Middle Eastern bird so big it could carry an elephant in its claws — will have a three-person crew: pilot, co-pilot and flight engineer, reported the Seattle Times.

Largest wingspan in history

The aircraft is 238 feet from nose to end, and it is 50 feet from the ground to the tip of its vertical tail. The Roc has the world's largest plane wingspan, measuring 385 feet (117 meters).
Image: Stratolaunch Systems Corporation

Launching rockets mid-air

Stratolaunch is built to carry a rocket beneath the central part of the wing, between the two fuselages, and release it at 35,000 feet. The rocket will then launch into space and deliver satellites into orbit.
Image: Stratolaunch Systems Corporation

Revolutionising space travel

When the ambitious venture was launched some six years ago by philanthropist Allen, partners in the project vowed it would revolutionise orbital travel in the post-space shuttle era, by lowering the cost of access to space through reusability.
Image: Stratolaunch Systems Corporation


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