Stratolaunch Flies Has First Flight of World’s Largest Airplane

Stratolaunch Systems Corporation, founded by Paul G. Allen, today successfully completed the first flight of the world’s largest all-composite aircraft, the Stratolaunch. With a dual fuselage design and wingspan greater than the length of an American football field, the Stratolaunch aircraft took flight at 0658 PDT from the Mojave Air & Space Port. Achieving a maximum speed of 189 miles per hour.

The plane flew for 2.5 hours over the Mojave Desert at altitudes up to 17,000 feet.

Stratolaunch is the largest airplane in the world to fly. It has with a wingspan measuring 385 feet, two fuselages and six Boeing 747 engines. Stratolaunch is built to launch rockets from the air.

The Stratolaunch aircraft is a mobile launch platform that will enable airline-style access to space that is convenient, affordable and routine. The reinforced center wing can support multiple launch vehicles, weighing up to a total of 500,000 pounds.

They will have a family of air-launched rockets.

SOURCES- Stratolaunch
Written By Brian Wang,

17 thoughts on “Stratolaunch Flies Has First Flight of World’s Largest Airplane”

  1. An airplane with a 500 ton capacity, for example, could give a Falcon 9
    the capability of a Falcon Heavy. It would do the job of the side boosters,
    probably for a lower cost.

  2. But air launch has nothing to do with reusability. You can air launch a
    reusable rocket, maybe you need a bigger airplane. The scope of air
    launch is to avoid the pesky low atmosphere.

  3. Allen piddled along with this project, funding it at pocket money levels for him. By the time they got the plane finished, reusable rockets made it uneconomic.

    Effectively, air-launch makes the system 50% reusable, since the carrier airplane roughly doubles payload relative to ground launch. But SpaceX is around 80-90% reusable now that have started recovering fairings. In effect, Allen missed his launch window.

  4. The prototype for White Knight 1 was a plane called Proteus from Burt Rutan. While most people thought it was a one-off experiment, he’s said in speeches years later that he still rented it out constantly for open-air payloads like huge bays of sensor equipment that would otherwise need to have a whole plane built around them to flight test. I could see this also being leased out for large payloads, drop tests, and so on.

  5. A sub-sonic air breathing first stage never did make any sense. I mean, come on! Air breathing planes were exceeding mach 3 half a century ago.

  6. The main energy expenditure of a rocket launch is in getting to orbital velocity, not gaining height.

    About 50% of the total atmospheric mass is within the lowest 5km.

    The benefit is you have a plane + a single stage to orbit.

  7. All you need is an extremely powerful rail gun to launch a satellite… projectile launch mode…

  8. Except spacex goes to 200,000 feet before firing second stage… strato only goes to “30,000” feet… it’s not even worth it to air drop a rocket… all it saved is 30,000 feet…and not enough velocity, therefore it’s sub orbital… the only advantage I could guess is being able to use vacuum engine nossles instead of sea level nossles…

  9. You expect the fuel and operation costs to fly this plane is more than the cost to make, fly and throw away Electron? Could Rocket Lab potentially ferry astronauts to a space station with their 550,000lbs carrying capacity like this plane?

    I believe they pulled back from perusing dev of some space plane after Allen’s death, I assume they expect Allen’s heirs will prefer to spend his cash on other things.

  10. The sat launch market is only getting stiffer competition, and I think they have a tough road ahead if they think they can be cheaper then Rocket Lab.
    I think their best route is sell the aircraft to Virgin Galactic, maybe they could use it for their SS2, or perhaps a future SS3.

  11. There is a market for launch services cheaper than ULA. If they’re not cheaper then they’re a spruce goose.

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