As enthusiasts of flight as much as we are enthusiasts of drones, mid-April, 2019 marked a new historic moment in the sky. Stratolaunch is now the world’s largest aircraft to successfully take to the sky.
The previous record was held by the Spruce Goose, a plane that is at home in a museum just half hour from my house. It is a thrilling monstrosity to behold, and one feels emotions when they step inside. One day I hope to say the same of the Stratolaunch.
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CEO Jean Floyd explains the event fairly concisely. “At 6:58 a.m. Pacific Time this morning the Stratolaunch aircraft took off from the Mojave Air and Spaceport flying above the Mojave Desert for about 150 minutes before completing a safe landing back at the spaceport’s main runway. The Stratolaunch aircraft achieved a maximum speed of approximately 173 miles per hour [subsequently corrected to 189 miles per hour] at altitudes up to seventeen thousand feet.”
The Stratolaunch is a uniquely designed craft that looks like two planes tied together side-by-side. The total wingspan is the measure by which this plane qualifies as world’s largest, spanning 385 feet across. The Spruce Goose measures a measly 320 feet across.
The Stratolaunch is a space delivery platform, as the name implies. It will only travel up to about 35,000 feet itself, then smaller rockets launch from it to deliver satellites and other tidbits up into the stratosphere. SpaceX fires rocket from the ground, and lands them for re-use. Stratolaunch is really just an alternative for the same task.
Read more about the Stratolaunch, slated for operation in late 2020: stratolaunch.com