APR 14, 2019 08:01 AM PDT

Airplane with World's Longest Wingspan Conducts Maiden Flight

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
  • 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
JAN 16, 2019
Chemistry & Physics
JAN 16, 2019
Second Repeating Fast Radio Bursts Detected
Scientists working at Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment, or CHIME, announced that they have detected a total of 13 fast radio bursts in July a...
JAN 16, 2019
Space & Astronomy
JAN 16, 2019
Developing Powerful Telescopes for Space Observations is No Easy Task
Astronomers use a variety of telescopes to observe the cosmos. Some orbit the Earth to get the most precise possible view without obstructions from Earth&r...
FEB 06, 2019
Space & Astronomy
FEB 06, 2019
NASA and Commercial Crew Program Partners Push Back Launch Dates
NASA previously introduced its Commercial Crew Program to reduce the American space agency’s dependence on Roscosmos for crewed space launches, offic...
MAR 24, 2019
Space & Astronomy
MAR 24, 2019
Astronomers Find Pulsar Hurtling Through Space
What exactly are pulsars? They are superdense, rapidly spinning neutron stars that are left behind when a massive star explodes. They were first discovered...
MAR 31, 2019
Space & Astronomy
MAR 31, 2019
NASA Astronauts Upgrade the International Space Station in Latest Spacewalk
As expected, a team of two NASA astronauts comprised of Nick Hague and Christina Koch performed a controversial spacewalk on Friday, March 29th in an effor...
APR 15, 2019
Space & Astronomy
APR 15, 2019
Israel's Attempt to Land its Beresheet Spacecraft on the Moon Ends in a Crash
During SpaceX’s second Falcon 9 rocket launch of 2019, which transpired back in February, the commercial space company assisted Israel in ferrying Sp...
Loading Comments...