The largest plane in the world has just flown for the first time



After years of development in the desert north of Los Angeles, a gigantic six-engine mega-plane with the stature of an American football field flew for the first time on Saturday morning. "We finally did," said Jean Floyd, CEO of Stratolaunch Systems, at a press conference from the Mojave Air & Space Port hangar. "It was a moving moment to see this bird take flight." Stratolaunch, the company founded in 2011 by the late co-founder of Microsoft, Paul Allen, made the first test flight of the world's largest aircraft. "I had imagined this moment for years, but I had never imagined it without Paul next to me," said Floyd, adding that he had muttered a personal thanks to Allen during the escape from l & # 39; air. Allen died last October at the age of 65 from complications related to the non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. In simple terms, the Stratolaunch aircraft is a giant flying launch pad, designed to propel satellites into low Earth orbit. It aims to offer military, private companies and even NASA itself a more economical way to get into space. The company's business model advocates the installation of satellites in the area. Space "as easy as booking an air flight". Test pilot Evan Thomas piloted the jet for a speed of approximately 173 mph, climbing up to 15,000 feet before slowly and safely returning after a two-hour flight and a half. "The plane has generally been flying as planned," said Thomas, a former F-16 fighter pilot from the Air Force. "It was fantastic overall, honestly, I could not expect more on the first flight, especially a plane of this complexity and originality." No matter what plane on the planet. From beginning to end, it is 238 feet long. He weighs half a million pounds. It's so big that it has two cockpits, one in each fuselage (but only one is used to fly the plane.) "It's the biggest airplane in the world. It's so huge that it seems like it should not be able to fly, "Jack Beyer, an aerospace industry photographer and launch photographer for NASASpaceFlight.com, said at CNN Thursday. He is eager to witness the beginnings of the rising trend of the space industry: use jets to launch satellites. "People are interested in the first flight of Stratolaunch because they want to see the future," said Beyer. "That's the same reason people log in every year to watch Apple keynotes, and people want to see what the next step is." Here's how Stratolaunch is supposed to work once the aircraft is fully tested and certified: the jet, carrying a rocket laden with satellite, will take off from Mojave and climb to an altitude of 35,000 feet. There, the pilots will launch the rocket from the plane on a trajectory towards space. The plane will then land in Mojave, while the rocket will carry the satellite in an orbit ranging from 300 to 1,200 km above the Earth. The rocket deploys the satellite before finally falling back to Earth, burning in the sky like a meteor.Although the cost of the aircraft has not been made public, other details are known.For make it strong and lightweight, Stratolaunch is made largely of carbon fiber instead of aluminum. To save money on the design of new engines and landing gear, the jet is equipped with six Pratt & Whitney engines, originally designed for the Boeing 747s. Its landing gear, which includes 28 staggering wheels, was also designed for the 747. Low Earth orbit satellites can provide broadband internet communications and connectivity to isolated ground areas. They can perform valuable earth observation and monitoring work. The market for commercial satellite launch services is growing rapidly and is expected to reach $ 7 billion by 2024, according to Global Market Insights. The launch of small satellites in space by planes also promises to be less expensive than traditional rocket launches It also helps reduce fuel costs because the aircraft consumes less fuel than a rocket traditional when it takes off from the Earth.Other advantages: bad weather will not be as intense a problem. Storms can delay the launch of a traditional rocket, but an airplane can simply take off and fly over bad weather – or around it – and then launch the satellite. Launches could take place more frequently and in a shorter time. No more waiting for a slot to open on a spacecraft taking off from a traditional ground launching ramp. Although Stratolaunch has only performed one flight, it is already facing competition from billionaire Richard Branson and his company Virgin Orbit. His service LauncherOne wants to launch rockets carrying satellites in orbit from a custom Boeing 747-400 – which, unlike Stratolaunch, is a proven aircraft. Virgin Orbit plans to launch its first launch at the port of Mojave Air & Space at some point "We are on the right track to offer new launch opportunities to small satellites waiting too long to go into space," Virgin Orbit CEO Dan Hart said in a statement on Wednesday. The first Stratolaunch flight presents the company with a new set of goals to go through before it can start doing business. The pilots will have to test the jet several times before being able to check it and certify it by the Federal Aviation Administration. If everything goes as planned, Stratolaunch indicates that the plane should launch its first satellite during the year. next.

After years of development in the desert north of Los Angeles, a gigantic six-engine mega-plane with the scale of an American football field flew for the first time on Saturday morning.

"We finally did," said Jean Floyd, CEO of Stratolaunch Systems, at a press conference held in the Mojave Air & Space Port hangar. "It was a moving moment to see this bird take flight."

Stratolaunch, the company founded in 2011 by the late co-founder of Microsoft, Paul Allen, made the first test flight of the world's largest aircraft.

"I had imagined this moment for years, but I never imagined it without Paul next to me," Floyd said, adding that he had muttered a private "thank you" to Allen as the plane took off.

Allen died last October at the age of 65 from complications of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.

In simple terms, the Stratolaunch is a giant flying launch pad designed to propel satellites into low Earth orbit. Its goal is to offer military, private companies and even NASA itself a more economical way to enter the space.

The company's business model plans to place satellites in space "as easily as reserving an air flight".

The test pilot, Evan Thomas, piloted the aircraft at a speed of approximately 173 mph. He climbed up to 15,000 feet before returning smoothly and safely after a flight of nearly two and a half hours.

"Most of the time, the plane flew as expected," said Thomas, a former F-16 fighter pilot from the Air Force.

"Overall it was fantastic, honestly, I could not hope for more on a first flight, especially for a plane of this complexity and uniqueness."

The size of the aircraft measures 385 feet – wider than any plane on the planet. From beginning to end, it is 238 feet long. He weighs half a million pounds. He is so big that he has two cockpits, one in each fuselage (but only one is used to fly the plane.)

"It's the biggest airplane in the world – it's so huge that it seems like it should not be able to fly," Beirut's Beirut photographer said on Thursday. aerospace industry and launch photographer for NASASpaceFlight.com.

He is delighted to witness the beginnings of the rising trend of the space industry: the use of jets to launch satellites.

Dozens of photographers, industry bloggers and aerospace enthusiasts gathered this week to spot the unique dual – fuselage aircraft.

"People are interested in the first flight of Stratolaunch because they want to see the future," said Beyer. "That's the same reason people log in every year to watch Apple keynotes, and people want to see what the next step is."

Here's how Stratolaunch is supposed to work once the aircraft is fully tested and certified: the jet, carrying a rocket laden with satellite, will take off from Mojave and climb to an altitude of 35,000 feet. There, the pilots will launch the rocket from the plane on a trajectory towards space. The plane will then land in Mojave, while the rocket will carry the satellite in an orbit ranging from 300 to 1,200 km above the Earth. The rocket deploys the satellite before finally falling back to Earth, burning in the sky like a meteor.

Although the cost of the aircraft has not been made public, other details are known.

To make it strong and lightweight, Stratolaunch is made primarily of carbon fiber instead of aluminum. To save money on the design of new engines and landing gear, the jet is equipped with six Pratt & Whitney engines, originally designed for the Boeing 747s. Its landing gear, which includes 28 staggering wheels, was also designed for the 747.

Low Earth orbit satellites can provide broadband Internet communications and connectivity to isolated areas on the ground. They can perform valuable earth observation and monitoring work. The market for commercial satellite launch services is growing rapidly and is expected to reach $ 7 billion by 2024, according to Global Market Insights.

The launch of small space satellites by aircraft also promises to be less expensive than traditional rocket launches, eliminating the need for launch pads and all the expensive equipment and infrastructure surrounding a traditional rocket launch. .

This also helps reduce fuel costs because the aircraft consumes less fuel than a traditional rocket when it takes off from the Earth.

Other benefits: Bad weather will not be as much of a problem. Storms can delay the launch of a traditional rocket, but a plane can simply take off and fly over bad weather – or all around – and then launch the satellite.

Launches could take place more frequently and in a shorter time. No more waiting for a slot to open on a spacecraft taking off from a traditional ground launching ramp.

Although Stratolaunch has only performed one flight, it is already facing competition from billionaire Richard Branson and his company Virgin Orbit. Its LauncherOne service wants to launch rockets carrying satellites from a customized Boeing 747-400 – which, unlike Stratolaunch, is a proven aircraft.

Virgin Orbit plans to launch its first launch at the Mojave Air & Space Port sometime "in the middle of the year".

"We are on track to offer new launch opportunities to small satellites that are waiting too long to get into space," Dan Hart, CEO of Virgin Orbit, said Wednesday in a statement.

The first Stratolaunch flight presents the company with a new set of goals to go through before it can start doing business. Pilots will have to test the jet several times before being able to check and certify it by the Federal Aviation Administration.

If all goes as planned, Stratolaunch said the plane is expected to launch its first satellite over the next year.

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