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Stratolaunch, the giant aircraft developed by Paul Allen, just took its first flight in California

Stratolaunch flight(AP Photo/Matt Hartman)

  • The Stratolaunch, an aircraft developed to air-launch small satellites, took its first flight on Saturday.
  • Stratolaunch calls its aircraft the world's largest, and it has the world's longest wingspan, though other aircraft exceed it in length.
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LOS ANGELES (AP) — A giant six-engine aircraft with the world's longest wingspan landed its first flight after some two hours in the air Saturday.

The behemoth, twin-fuselage Stratolaunch jet lifted off from Mojave Air and Space Port and climbed into the desert sky 70 miles north of Los Angeles. Founded by the late billionaire Paul G. Allen, Stratolaunch is vying to be a contender in the market for air-launching small satellites.

The aircraft is designed to carry as many as three satellite-laden rockets at a time under the center of its enormous wing, which stretches 385 feet — a longer wingspan than any other aircraft. At an altitude of 35,000 feet, the rockets would be released, ignite their engines and soar into space.

The advantages of such air-launch systems include being able to use numerous airports and avoid the limitations of fixed launch sites which can be affected by weather, air traffic and ship traffic on ocean ranges.

(AP Photo/Matt Hartman)

Allen, the cofounder of Microsoft, founded Stratolaunch Systems Corp. in 2011 after emerging in aerospace by funding the development of the experimental air-launched SpaceShipOne, which in 2004 became the first privately built manned rocket to reach space.

Steve Dykes / Getty Images

After Allen's death in October 2018, Stratolaunch dropped plans to develop its own type of rocket engine and a family of launch vehicles, focusing instead on getting the giant plane airborne and launching Northrop Grumman's proven Pegasus XL.

(AP Photo/Matt Hartman)
See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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