In the quest for mobility, most pieces of tech are pushing to get smaller and smaller. Even many manufacturers are moving away from big vehicles to cars which are a lot more space efficient in general. However, when it comes to planes, it appears the industry is moving in the opposite direction as they are not only trying to fit more passengers into planes for long-distance flights but now also creating massive planes in which to launch rockets from.
Yes, rocket. Stratolaunch has just built a plane that is capable of launching rockets into the stratosphere (seriously, it says so in their name). The massive dual-fuselage plane has a combined wingspan of 385 feet (117 metres), which may not allow it to travel very fast (max speed of 280km/h) but does enable it to reach the remarkable peak altitude of 35 000 feet (10600m). High enough to make it a lot easier and cheaper for companies to launch rockets from.
It’s a novel idea which has already seen the company sign up its first customer in Northrop Grumman, which plans to use Stratolaunch to send its Pegasus XL rocket into space. Importantly for Stratolaunch though the company was able to conduct a first test flight (as reported in The Verge) which saw their massive new plane successfully fly the plane for a total journey of 150 minutes – and importantly, safely land the plane.
The test took place at Mojave Air and Space Port in Mojave, California and was a sigh of relief for the company which recently laid off more 50 employees due to financial challenges in the company. With this successful first test flight though, it proves that their plane concept does work and could see an increasing amount of interest from other aerospace companies looking to release rockets into space. Provided they don’t let Boeing design their software for them, anyway.
Last Updated: April 15, 2019