World's largest plane gets ready for its debut: Enormous Stratolaunch will send astronauts into orbit using a mini shuttle

3 years ago
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  • Stratolaunch Systems, funded by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen invited reporters to get their first look at the plane
  • It will have a wingspan of 117 metres and will launch satellites and spacecraft into precise orbits from high altitude
  • It will climb to 30,000 feet and launch a rocket at high altitude, avoiding the huge fuel costs of launching from Earth

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The largest plane ever to be built is creeping closer to completion, as the private space launch firm behind the craft – bankrolled by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen – invited reporters to get their first look at the ‘Stratolaunch’.

With a gargantuan wingspan of 385 feet (117 m) and six engines, the plane is taking a new approach in the private space race, by launching satellites and spacecraft into orbit from high altitude.

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The craft will be larger than Howard Hughes’ 1947 H-4 Hercules, known as the ‘Spruce Goose,’ and the enormous Antonov An-225, a Soviet-era cargo plane originally built to transport the Buran space shuttle that is currently the world’s largest aircraft.

Reporters got their first look at the Stratolaunch plane, which is currently being constructed at a hanger in the US. The private behind the venture say construction of the plane is 76 per cent complete 

Reporters got their first look at the Stratolaunch plane, which is currently being constructed at a hanger in the US. The private behind the venture say construction of the plane is 76 per cent complete

The world's biggest plane is set to take off early next year in its first ever test flight. The aircraft, named the Stratolaunch Carrier, is currently under construction at Mojave Air and Spaceport in California, and will eventually have a a wingspan of 385 feet (117 metres)

The world’s biggest plane is set to take off early next year in its first ever test flight. The aircraft, named the Stratolaunch Carrier, is currently under construction at Mojave Air and Spaceport in California, and will eventually have a a wingspan of 385 feet (117 metres)

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The Stratolaunch plane looks nothing like its behemoth predecessor aircraft.

Rather than transporting heavy cargo inside a main body section, Stratolaunch is a twin-fuselage craft that incorporates engines, landing gear, avionics and other parts from a pair of Boeing 747 jets coupled with a frame, wings and skin handmade of lightweight composites.

Designed and built by Northrop Grumman Corp’s Scaled Composites, the plane is similar in form and function to Scaled’s aircraft built to ferry spaceships into the air and release them for independent rocket rides beyond the atmosphere, a service Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic intends to offer to paying passengers.


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