Stratolaunch plane founded by Microsoft’s Paul Allen takes flight in California

Stratolaunch plane founded by Microsoft’s Paul Allen takes flight in California

Stratolaunch plane founded by Microsoft’s Paul Allen takes flight in California

On Saturday, the world's largest airplane took flight for the first time.

After years of development in the desert north of Los Angeles, a very big, six-engined mega jet with the wingspan of an American football field flew Saturday morning for the first time. The jet flew 2.5 hours, achieving a maximum speed of 189 mph (304 kph) and altitudes up to 17,000 feet (5,181 meters), the company said.

Jean Floyd, Stratolaunch Systems chief executive, said the aircraft made a "spectacular" landing that was on the mark.

The behemoth, twin-fuselage Stratolaunch jet lifted off from Mojave Air and Space Port and climbed into the desert sky 70 miles north of Los Angeles.

Stratolaunch, according to the company, is created to be a "mobile launch platform that will enable airline-style access to space that is convenient, affordable and routine".

The market for commercial satellite launch services is growing rapidly and is expected to reach $7 billion by 2024, according to Global Market Insights.

Stratolaunch, set up by late Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, is created to launch satellites into space from its wing.

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The pilot Evan Thomas told reporters the experience was "fantastic" and that "for the most part, the airplane flew as predicted". Rather, Stratolaunch could take off from various runways and then fly to a spot with good weather. The American business magnate, who co-founded Microsoft along with Bill Gates in 1975, died of cancer in October past year at the age of 65.

"Without a doubt, he would have been exceptionally proud to see his aircraft take flight", Floyd said.

As Stratolaunch embarks on the long and costly certification process for the aircraft, Virgin Orbit is preparing to launch a competitive service using the long-established Boeing 747-400 as its platform. The dual-fuselage Stratolaunch is created to fly at an altitude of 35,000 feet, where it can drop rockets that ignite their engines and boost themselves into orbit around the planet.

The aircraft has a wingspan of 385 ft (117 m) and a length of 238 ft (73 m).

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

"The airplane felt really nice on the touchdown, gear felt good", Thomas said.

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