What’s 238 feet long, 385 feet wide, 50 feet tall and built to fly? The Stratolaunch Aircraft. The massive plane—designed to act as a launch platform for rockets bound for low Earth orbit—left the hangar where it was built for the first time on Wednesday.
With the scaffolding gone, the company was able to get an accurate weight on the aircraft for the first time. It came in at an incredible 500,000 pounds. Perhaps even more astoundingly, the Stratolaunch is designed for a maximum takeoff weight of 1,300,000 pounds. If everything works out according to plan, it will be capable of carrying payloads of up to around 550,000 pounds.
The aircraft’s first passenger is scheduled to be one of Orbital ATK’s Pegasus XL vehicles. The Stratolaunch has the capacity to carry three of the three-stage, satellite-deploying Pegasus XL rockets at a time. Launching rockets from high altitude is much more cost-effective than ground launches. The Pegasus XL can carry satellites weighing up to 1,000 pounds.
For the Stratolaunch Aircraft, the next step is to begin conducting ground and flight-line testing at Mojave Air and Space Port. If the ground tests go well, the it may take flight as early as 2019. The Stratolaunch Aircraft is a project of Stratolaunch Systems. It was built by Scaled Composites.
Learn more at Stratolaunch.