The world’s largest aircraft by wingspan, the Stratolaunch, also known as the Roc, made its first flight at Mojave Air and Space Port on the morning on April 13.
Flown by former USAF F-16 pilot Evan Thomas, the aircraft flew for 2.5 hours and reached a maximum speed of 304km/h (189mph) and altitude of 4,750m (15,000ft) .
The Stratolaunch is designed as a mobile launch platform allowing “airline-style access to space” by carrying launch vehicles above the lower atmosphere before release, reducing fuel costs. The centre-wing section can ssupport multiple launch vehicles, weighing up to a total of 500,000lb (226,800kg). It has a wingspan of 385ft (117m) and is powered by six Pratt & Whitney PW4056 turbofans.
Officially designated the Scaled Composites 351, the aircraft was rolled out of its giant construction and operations hangar at Mojave Air and Space Port on May 31 2017. The Stratolaunch Systems Corporation was founded by the late Paul G Allen, co-founder of Microsoft in 2011. Scaled Composites was bought by Northrop Grumman in 2007 and the first launch vehicle slated to be launched by Stratolaunch is that company’s Pegasus XL rocket.