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World's largest plane makes first test flight

15 April 2019
World's largest plane makes first test flight

The world's largest aircraft, the Stratolaunch Launch Systems Stratolaunch, flew for the first time on Saturday, April 13, 2019.

With a dual fuselage design and wingspan greater than the length of an American football field, the airplane took off from Mojave Air and Space Port in the U.S. state of California at 6:58 a.m.

Test pilot Evan Thomas flew the jet to speeds of about 173 mph, climbing as high as 15,000 feet before returning smoothly and safely back, after a almost two-and-a-half-hour flight.

The company, which was founded in 2011 by the late Paul Allen, has a contract with Northrop Grumman is use Stratolaunch to send its Pegasus XL rocket into space. Though Stratolaunch is the largest plane by wingspan, another craft, the helium-filled Airlander 10, takes the title of the longest aircraft now flying with a length of 302 feet (92 m). The flight lasted for about two and a half hours, in which it reached an altitude of 17,000 ft (5182 m) and a maximum speed of 189 mp/h (304 km/h), according to Stratolaunch Systems.

Stratolaunch, which was founded by Mr Allen, is vying to be a contender in the market for air-launching small satellites. "Today's flight furthers our mission to provide a flexible alternative to ground-launched systems".

The duel-fuselage Stratolaunch is created to fly to an altitude of 35,000 feet, where it can drop rockets that ignite their engines and boost themselves into orbit around the planet.

Saturday's first-ever test flight of Stratolaunch was flown by experimental test pilot Evan Thomas.

The idea is to fly the plane to 10 km (6.2 miles) before releasing satellites into orbit. "It's so huge, it seems like it shouldn't be able to fly", Jack Beyer, an aerospace and launch photographer for NASASpaceFlight.com, told CNN on Thursday.

While Stratolaunch calls its aircraft the world's largest, other airplanes exceed it in length from nose to tail.

Although the cost of the airplane hasn't been made public, other details are known. "People want to see what's next".

It is created to carry into space, and drop, a rocket that would in turn ignite to deploy satellites. The company initially planned to develop its own fleet of rockets but scrapped the plan in January, CNBC report says.