Stratolaunch, the world's largest aircraft, makes its first flight

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By Michael Sheetz, CNBC

The aviation has a new number one in size, as a unique aircraft made its first test flight Saturday morning over the Mojave Desert in California, told CNBC people familiar with this flight.

This test makes the huge Stratolaunch the largest aircraft in the world to fly, with a wingspan of over 385 feet – wider than a football field. With two fuselages and six Boeing 747s. Stratolaunch is built to launch air rockets.

Stratolaunch is an "air launch" system, which means that the plane will carry rockets up to about 35,000 feet, and then drop the rocket. One of the advantages of such a system, introduced by Stratolaunch as well as by Virgin Orbit of Richard Branson, is that entering and exiting a traditional track offers greater flexibility and, ultimately, allow for rapid rotation between launches.

Stratolaunch, a world-leading six-engine giant aircraft, makes its first historic flight from the Mojave air and space port in Mojave, California on April 13, 2019.Matt Hartman / AP

The company has had various partnerships, as well as internal plans, for the rockets that Stratolaunch will carry. SpaceX was one of the company's first partners, but Stratolaunch then contracted with Orbital ATK, owned by Northrop Grumman, to fly the Pegeasus XL rocket. Stratolaunch's plan to develop its own rocket fleet was dropped in January.

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