Thu. Jun 1st, 2023

The oh-so-massive Stratolaunch plane seems to be getting a little closer to flying. Last year, Stratolaunch Systems Corp. ground tests of the 72.5-foot aircraft, which culminated in December runway tests that saw the vehicle roll at speeds of up to 28 mph in Mojave, California.

Now, the Stratolaunch plane has boosted those cruising speeds on the ground even faster. According to the company’s founder, Paul Allen, the Stratolaunch plane reached a top taxi speed of 46 mph this weekend, “with all flight surfaces in place.” These tests are part of a regime to certify the aircraft’s control and stopping capability. The company has also released new photos of the aircraft taken during these tests, further demonstrating its incredible size.

Other than these runway tests, unfortunately, Stratolaunch Systems has not released any information about when the large aircraft’s maiden flight will take place or what checks will need to be made between now and then. Needless to say, we await the maiden flight in a high state of eagerness.

When it flies, the Stratolaunch aircraft will, by certain measures, be the largest aircraft ever to take to the skies. The current wingspan record holder is the Hughes H-4 Spruce Goose, which had a wingspan of 97.5 meters. The Stratolaunch vehicle has an astonishing wingspan of 117 meters. It also has a maximum takeoff weight of 590 tons. In comparison, a Boeing 747 has a maximum takeoff weight of about 300 tons.

The Stratolaunch system is part of Allen’s plan to lower the cost of access to space with a reusable first-stage launch. Stratolaunch Systems has released few details about the lifting capacity of the system. But in October 2016, the company announced a partnership with Orbital ATK. The Dulles, Virginia-based company will provide “multiple” Pegasus XL air-launched missiles, with the Stratolaunch aircraft as the first stage.

Our mood at the moment.

Our mood at the moment.

These rockets can launch small satellites weighing up to 1,000 pounds into low Earth orbit. With this concept and capacity, Stratolaunch competes with companies like Virgin Orbit, which plans to launch missiles from a modified Boeing 747-400. But it can’t compete until the Stratolaunch flies. Which, if we haven’t already said this, hopefully is soon.

Listing image by Stratolaunch Systems Corp.

By akfire1

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