The world's largest plane that finally flew was Microsoft co-founder late Paul Allen's idea
world's largest planeand the brainchild of Paul Allen, the Stratolaunch, successfully completed its first test flight on Saturday.
- Jean Floyd, the CEO of
Stratolaunch Systems, thanked the Microsoft co-founderfor making this project a reality.
- The Stratolaunch has the potential to greatly reduce the cost of launching satellites into low earth orbit.
I had imagined this moment for years, but I had never imagined it without Paul standing next to me… Even though he wasn't there today, as the plane lifted gracefully from the runway I did whisper a 'thank you' to Paul for allowing me to be a part of this remarkable achievement.
Allen's brain child, the Stratolaunch mega plane, is essentially a jet, carrying a rocket that's carrying a satellite. Once the plane takes off, it launched a rocket once it reaches an altitude of 35,000 feet which, in turn, launches satellite somewhere between 500 km to 2,000 km above the Earth.
Allen reportedly sunk over $300 million into the Stratolaunch before it finally rolled out onto the tarmac in February last year after six years of extensive work. The first test flight was actually scheduled for 2015 but got delayed when Elon Musk, the CEO of SpaceX and Tesla, pulled out in 2012 to focus on the Falcon 9 launch system.
Captured new video of @Stratolaunch plane as it reached a top taxi speed of 40 knots (46 mph) with all flight surfa… https://t.co/6hECkCluzA— Paul Allen (@PaulGAllen) 1519664400000
This entire system has the potential to greatly reduce the cost of launching satellites into low earth orbit (LEO) by eliminating the need for launch pads and its supporting infrastructure, saving on fuel costs and being more resilient in the face of bad weather.
We finally did it. It was an emotional moment to watch this bird take flight.
But, the Stratolaunch is already facing stiff competition from Richard Branson's company, Virgin Orbit, that's scheduled to test its first flight mid-2019 and there are still plenty of bureaucratic hoops for it to clear before it can officially be in the business of launching satellites.
Virgin Orbit's LauncherOne service is using a customised Boeing 747-400 which, unlike the Stratolaunch, is already a proven aircraft. Dan Hart, the CEO of Virgin Orbit stated, "We are well on our way towards providing new launch opportunities for small satellites that have waited too long for their ride to space."
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