Private space company Stratolaunch – the brainchild of Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen – has passed yet another test as it edges closer to liftoff. The massive aircraft, equipped with six turbofan engines, reached a top speed of 46 mph during its latest taxi-speed test run, an improvement over its previous high of 28 mph.
To say that these new personal speed records are impressive would be a gross understatement. Considering that the behemoth has twin fuselages spanned by a 385-foot wide wingspan, this majestic aircraft makes taxing look far more effortless than it should. The plane can carry a payload of up to 550,000 pounds in addition to its cumbersome frame weight, which, if you didn’t figure it out already, makes it far and away the first vessel of its kind.
Stratolaunch is scheduled for its first flight test in 2019, and as its revolutionary design suggests, will not be used as a mere passenger plane. It’s been reported that the massive aircraft will be used to transpart rocket launchers, satellites, and other large-scale items bound for low earth orbit. This massive task is reflective of the plane’s gigantic size and six-engine propulsion system, which will have to travel to heights greater than any airplane before it.
The plan is for the Stratolaunch to travel to heights of approximately 36,000 feet before releasing rocket launchers and satellites. Currently, the deployment of such items can be stalled because of inclement weather, but the use of the Stratolaunch will allow such hazards to be avoided, providing deployment schedules that are more consistent. And, with a maximum takeoff weight of 1.3 million pounds, there will be few concerns about the limits of what the disruptive aircraft will be able to transport.