On May 31, 2017, a new kind of aircraft that looks unlike any other was unveiled for the first time at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California. The huge airplane is called the Stratolaunch, and it has the longest wingspan of any aircraft in the world. It’s designed to send rockets into orbit.
The aircraft has a wingspan of 385 feet which is longer than an American football field. This is longer than the famous “Spruce Goose”, one of the largest plane in history, which had a wingspan of 320 feet. The Stratolaunch will be powered by six 747 engines and will be able to carry a payload of up to 500,000 pounds. It also has a total of 28 wheels.
The airplane looks rather unconventional because it has a right and left fuselage. The right fuselage will house the flight crew and the cockpit, and the left fuselage will contain the flight data systems. A center wing connects the two fuselages and will be the connection point for rockets that can be sent into orbit. The aircraft will have a range of around 2000 nautical miles which will enable it to avoid delays due to time and weather when launching rockets as opposed to if the rocket was launched from a fixed pad.
Billionaire Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft and owner of the Seattle Seahawks and Portland Trail Blazers, founded Stratolaunch in 2011. The aircraft was built by Scaled Composites, a company founded by Burt Rutan who also helped create SpaceShipOne. The Stratolaunch is expected to have it first launch demonstration by 2019.
The Stratolaunch won’t be the largest active aircraft ever, however. That title goes to the Russian built Antonov An-225 which has a greater length than the Stratolaunch.
You can get a look at the Stratolaunch in the video below.