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Behemoth Stratolaunch jet completes first flight

A giant six-engine aircraft with the world's longest wingspan has carried out its first flight in California.

The massive dual fuselage Stratolaunch jet, which is designed to launch rockets into orbit, lifted off from Mojave Air and Space Port on Saturday.

Founded by the late Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, Stratolaunch is aimed at becoming a contender in the satellite launch market.

It is designed to release up to three rockets attached to the centre of its enormous wing, which stretches 385ft (117m) – the longest of any aircraft.

Image: The Stratolaunch is designed to launch rockets into orbit

The rockets would be released at around 35,000ft, where they would ignite their engines and blast into space.

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According to a company press release, the jet hit a maximum speed of 189mph and flew at altitudes of up to 17,000ft (5,181m) above the Mojave Desert while its performance and handling was evaluated.

Stratolaunch Systems chief executive Jean Floyd said: "It was an emotional moment for me, to personally watch this majestic bird take flight, to see Paul Allen's dream come to life in front of my very eyes."

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After the Stratolaunch took off, Mr Floyd added he whispered a 'thank you' to Mr Allen for allowing him to be "part of this remarkable achievement".

Mr Allen died in October last year. Stratolaunch dropped plans to develop its own line of rockets to focus on launching Northrop Grumman's Pegasus XL.

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