Stratolaunch Systems Corporation this weekend successfully completed the first flight of the world’s largest all-composite aircraft, the Stratolaunch.

The Stratolaunch aircraft is a mobile launch platform that aims to enable airline-style access to space. The reinforced centre wing can support multiple launch vehicles, weighing up to a total of 500,000 pounds.

With a dual fuselage design and a wingspan greater than the length of an American football field, the Stratolaunch aircraft took flight on April 13 at 06.58 PDT from the Mojave Air Space Port.

Achieving a maximum speed of 189 miles per hour, the plane flew for 2.5 hours over the Mojave Desert at altitudes up to 17,000 feet. As part of the initial flight, the pilots evaluated aircraft performance and handling qualities before landing successfully back at the Mojave Air and Space Port.

“What a fantastic first flight,” said Jean Floyd, CEO of Stratolaunch. “Today’s flight furthers our mission to provide a flexible alternative to ground-launched systems. We are incredibly proud of the Stratolaunch team, today’s flight crew, our partners at Northrup Grumman’s Scaled Composites and the Mojave Air and Space Port.”

The test team conducted standard aircraft testing exercises. The aircraft performed a variety of flight control manoeuvres to calibrate speed and test flight control systems, including roll doublets, yawing manoeuvres, pushovers and pull-ups, and steady heading side slips. It also conducted simulated landing approach exercises.

Stratolaunch was founded in 2011 by Microsoft co-founder Paul G. Allen. He died last year.

“We all know Paul would have been proud to witness today’s historic achievement,” said Jody Allen, Chair of Vulcan Inc. and Trustee of the Paul G. Allen Trust. “The aircraft is a remarkable engineering achievement and we congratulate everyone involved.”

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