The world’s largest aircraft, a carbon-composite plane, took its first flight on Saturday from California, U.S. over the Mojave Desert in California.
The carbon-composite plane was by Stratolaunch Systems Corp, a company started by late Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, as the company breaks into the lucrative private space market.
The carbon-composite plane called Roc, nicknamed after a giant mythical bird, has a wingspan the length of an American football field and is powered by six engines on a twin fuselage. It took to the air shortly before 7 a.m. Pacific time (1400 GMT).
It stayed in the sky for more than two hours before landing safely back at the Mojave Air and Space Port as a crowd of hundreds of people cheered.
Jean Floyd, Stratolaunch’s CEO, in a statement on the company’s website said; “What a fantastic first flight. Today’s flight furthers our mission to provide a flexible alternative to ground launched systems.”
“We are incredibly proud of the Stratolaunch team, today’s flight crew, our partners at Northrup Grumman’s Scaled Composites and the Mojave Air and Space Port.”
The plane is designed to drop rockets and other space vehicles weighing up to 500,000 pounds at an altitude of 35,000 feet. It has been billed by the company as making satellite deployment as “easy as booking an airline flight”.
Saturday’s test flight, saw the plane reach a maximum speed of 189 miles per hour and altitudes of 17,000 feet and it was meant to test its performance and handling qualities, according to Stratolaunch. Allen, a co-founder of Microsoft with Bill Gates in 1975, announced in 2011 that he had formed the privately funded Stratolaunch.
And died in October 2018 while suffering from non-Hodgkins’ lymphoma, just months after the plane’s development was unveiled.