The United States once again holds the crown for the largest aircraft that has flown. Earlier today, the Stratolaunch, a jet with a massive 385ft wingspan took flight and dethroned the Antanov AN-225 Mriya. Launching from Mohave Air and Space Port in California, the jet somewhat gracefully left terra firma just after 10am today.
What makes the Stratolaunch unique?
The jet is a unique design with a very specific mission. The Stratolaunch is designed to carry and launch a rocket. Designed by Scaled Composites, the aircraft features six Pratt and Whitney PW4056 engines, similar to the engines used on the Boeing 747-400. The jet is also one of the few dual fuselage aircraft ever built (the twin mustang is a notable exception along with another Scaled Composite aircraft known as White Knight Two). The aircraft features dual cockpits and twin tails, enabling a rocket to be carried in the space between the two fuselages.
A successful first flight
The initial flight today was scheduled for just over two hours. The giant six engined jet landed at just over two and a half hours after takeoff. During the inaugural flight, the jet performed a series of basic maneuvers up to an altitude of 15,000 feet. Videos of the departure and arrival have popped up all over YouTube. One fan, under the username HechtSpeed, posted a very passionate video of both the departure and the arrival.
Assuming that no major issues were discovered, it is expected that the aircraft will fly again soon as the flight test program continues and expands the performance envelope. There is no known public schedule of testing and no statement has yet been made on when we can expect the first rocket launch assisted by the Stratolaunch system.
Shortly after the conclusion of the first flight, the Stratolaunch team released a short video commemorating the event:
Editors note: Thanks to our friend Jim Mumaw for the beautiful photos of the event.