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Stratolaunch aircraft makes its first exit from the hanger

05 June 2017

The Stratolaunch aircraft is hoping to provide reliable and routine access to low Earth orbit and has left its hanger to conduct fuelling tests.

Stratolaunch aircraft emerging from the hanger (Credit: Stratolaunch Systems Corporation)

Stratolaunch aircraft is the world’s largest plane by wingspan, measuring 385ft (a National Football league field only spans 360ft) and 238ft from nose to tail. It stands 50ft tall from the ground to the top of the tail. The aircraft is designed with a maximum weight take off of 1,300.000lbs, meaning it can carry payloads of up to approximately 550,000lbs. 

Last autumn, Stratolaunch announced a partnership with Orbital ATK. Orbital ATK is to supply multiple Pegasus XL air-launch vehicles for use with the Stratolaunch aircraft, providing flexibility in launching small satellites weighing up to 1,000 pounds into low Earth orbit. Stratolaunch Systems Corporation announced it would initially launch a single Pegasus XL vehicle with the capacity to launch up to three Pegasus vehicles in a single mission. 

Over the past few weeks, the fabrication infrastructure and scaffolding has been removed and the aircraft is now resting on its full weight and 28 wheels for the first time. This is the first step in preparing the aircraft for ground testing, engine runs, taxi tests and its first flight. 

The next stage will involve ground and flightline testing at the Mojave Air and Space Port. As this is a first of its kind aircraft, testing will be diligent and safety of the crew, pilots and staff will be priority. Stratolaunch is on track to perform its first launch demonstration as early as 2019. 

Video courtesy of Stratolaunch Systems Corporation 

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