Stratolaunch, the space launch company founded in part by Microsoft's billionaire and co-founder, Paul Allen, sent his gigantic Roc aircraft into the skies for the first time. The flight took place this morning at 6:46 am from Stratolaunch's home at the Mojave Air And Space Port in California. He was pursued by a Cessna Citation jet on the maiden flight.
Roc now occupies the throne, becoming the largest aircraft in the world, with a wingspan of 385 feet, a gross takeoff weight of 1,300,000 pounds, and powered by six Pratt & Whitney Turbofan PW4056 engines that are normally found on the 747-400. Together, these engines produce an incredible 340,500 pounds of thrust. The Rock, nicknamed in reference to the huge bird of Greek mythology, will carry loads of rockets into the sky before sending them into space. The idea is that the craft industry functions as a completely reusable first stage that can be deployed in a flexible way, which could significantly reduce the cost of installing payloads in space and in an extremely flexible way, unlike traditional systems based on the launch pad.
We kept a close eye on the program, whose scope has been somewhat reduced since the death of its main funder and visionary, Paul Allen. A whole family of space launchers had to be transported by Roc, which is now twinned with one, at least for the moment. As we have explained in the past, the Pentagon will probably be the most interested and lucrative customer of Stratolaunch.
Roc is still in the air at the time of publication. We will update this message with more information as it will be available about this exciting monument to the history of aviation.
UPDATE: 9:25 am PDT
Roc safely landed at Mojave's air and space port. Congratulations to Stratolaunch and all their partners for this successful and historic first flight!
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