The massive Stratolaunch, which first rolled out of its specially-designed hangar at the Mojave Air & Space Port last June, has taken another significant step toward being the largest thing ever to fly. Though it never left the ground, the 238-foot-long airplane took its inaugural trip down the runway last weekend for its first taxi test. It is powered by six Pratt & Whitney turbofan engines.
The Stratolaunch weighs in at around 500,000 pounds at the moment—with a designed maximum takeoff weight of an almost-unbelievable 1,300,000 pounds. Needless to say, getting it stopped safely and in a reasonable distance is a matter of some importance. This first taxi test—conducted at low speeds—allowed the Stratolaunch team to test steering, braking, anti-skid and telemetry systems. Stratolaunch reports that all went well. Once the low-speed taxi testing is finished, the next phase will be to pick up the pace.
The Stratolaunch aircraft is a project of Stratolaunch Systems and was built by Scaled Composites. The plane stands 50 feet tall, boasts a wingspan of 385 feet (the longest span ever in a plane by some 65 feet) and is designed to carry payloads in excess of 500,000 pounds. The purpose of the plane is to carry large, satellite-deploying rockets to high altitude for launch.