APR 14, 2019 8:01 AM PDT

Airplane with World's Longest Wingspan Conducts Maiden Flight

WRITTEN BY: Anthony Bouchard

Stratolaunch is the unique name given to a specialized dual-fuselage airplane that, much like the name implies, could one day assist in launching small rockets and their payloads into space from the Earth’s stratosphere. This would reduce the amount of rocket fuel that must be burned to achieve a space launch and cut costs to the private sector in the process.

Stratolaunch in all of its wide-winged glory.

Image Credit: Stratolaunch/YouTube

The Stratolaunch project has been a work in progress by engineers at Scaled Composites for ages, but momentous progress was achieved just over the weekend after the Stratolaunch team witnessed the fruits of their blood, sweat, and tears when the aircraft conducted its maiden flight at more than 17,000 feet above California’s arid Mojave Desert.

“The flight itself was smooth, which is exactly what you want the first flight to be, and for the most part, the airplane flew as predicted, which is again exactly what we want,” commented Evan Thomas, one of the test pilots who flew Stratolaunch for the first time.

Related: Solar Impulse 2 successfully crosses the Atlantic Ocean

Stratolaunch took off just before 7:00 A.M. Pacific time on Saturday and went on to spend nearly two hours in the air before returning to the landing strip. Below is a video showcasing the event:

Thomas went on to explain that even the landing process went smoothly for Stratolaunch: “The airplane felt really nice on the touchdown, gear felt good. We had a couple of corrections to line up in the slowdown and ended up rolling to a stop pretty much where we wanted to coming off the runway.”

Stratolaunch stands out from the crowd of other airplanes because it sports the longest wingspan of the bunch. Its wingspan measures a respectable 385 feet, 25 feet longer than a traditional American football field. Paired with a total of six PW4056 engines, Stratolaunch’s ultrawide stance will provide enhanced stability when it carries space-related payloads.

Stratolaunch is purportedly capable of flying payloads that weigh more than 500,000 pounds to altitudes that exceed 35,000 feet. At these heights, a smaller rocket could be dumped out of the plane in mid-air, reducing the amount of rocket fuel necessary to reach space. Notably, the aircraft didn’t fly anywhere close to these altitudes during its maiden flight.

Related: Learn how pilots land massive airplanes in windy conditions

Albeit an incredible feat worthy of mention in the myriad of world record books in circulation today, Stratolaunch’s future remains cloudy. Commercial space companies like Rocket Lab and SpaceX are already refining the modern rocket industry with novel innovations and driving down the costs of spaceflight for the private sector.

Given the circumstances, it would be interesting to see where the Stratolaunch project goes and whether it’ll be any more economical than today’s plethora of modern rocket systems.

Source: New York Times, The Telegraph

About the Author
Other
Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
You May Also Like
NOV 17, 2022
Space & Astronomy
Astronomers Measure Size of 11-Billion-Year-Old Star
Astronomers Measure Size of 11-Billion-Year-Old Star
In a recent study published in Nature, an international team of researchers led by the University of Minnesota successfu ...
NOV 16, 2022
Space & Astronomy
Where Did the Planets Go?
Where Did the Planets Go?
A new study published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters presents a solution to some mysterious patterns that have sho ...
JAN 04, 2023
Space & Astronomy
Solar System Wonders: Mars Polar Caps
Solar System Wonders: Mars Polar Caps
It turns out Earth isn’t the only planet with polar caps, as Mars has both a north and south polar cap, but instea ...
JAN 22, 2023
Space & Astronomy
Gaia Discovers a Planet Undergoing Fusion
Gaia Discovers a Planet Undergoing Fusion
An international team of scientists led by Sasha Hinkley at the University of Exeter have used the European Space Agency ...
FEB 02, 2023
Space & Astronomy
The Awe-Inspiring and Majestic Rings of Saturn | Solar System Wonders
The Awe-Inspiring and Majestic Rings of Saturn | Solar System Wonders
Labroots recently explored the reflective and beautiful atmosphere of Venus that envelopes its hot and high-pressured su ...
FEB 03, 2023
Space & Astronomy
JWST Uncovers Mysteries of Pre-stellar Ice Chemistry
JWST Uncovers Mysteries of Pre-stellar Ice Chemistry
In a recent study published in Nature Astronomy, an international team of astronomers used NASA’s James Webb Space ...
Loading Comments...