Remember the giant Stratolaunch Roc carrier plane? It’s been a couple of years since it last took flight in 2019. The world’s largest plane, thanks to its 385-foot wingspan, finally made its second test flight on Thursday, reports Space.com.
Roc now has two test flights under its very long wings and this test had the plane in the sky for a whole three hours and 14 minutes. The twin fuselage aircraft reached an altitude of about 14,000 feet and about 173 knots (200 mph). The NASASpaceflight YouTube channel caught the flight in action and it looks majestic:
The Roc looks like it’s barely moving in its passes of the runway.
For a quick refresher, its 385-foot wingspan makes it the largest plane in the world by wingspan. Check it out compared to other colossal planes:
Why has it taken so long to get a second flight? As Space News reports, Stratolaunch’s owner, Microsoft co-Founder Paul Allen, sold the venture to none other than Chrysler’s former owner, Cerberus Capital Management.
The plane now serves a new role, too. Stratolaunch wanted to use the aircraft for launch services, but now it’s serving as a launch platform for Stratolaunch’s own hypersonic vehicle (a vehicle that can travel at least five times the speed of sound) projects.
One of those hypersonic vehicles is the Talon-A. This reusable craft measures in at 28-feet long and is development simultaneously with the plane.
In 2022, Stratolaunch hopes to conduct a test to confirm that the Talon-A can be released from the Roc carrier plane. After that, it hopes to eventually get the Talon-A in some powered tests to get it to hypersonic speeds.
The Roc carrier plane itself got some nice upgrades during its two year hiatus. Roc uses systems adapted from a Boeing 747-400 like its engines, landing gear and flight deck. It now has a new environmental control system, more instruments and improvements to the flight control system to make it handle better.
Daniel Millman, chief technical officer of Stratolaunch, says that this second flight is only the beginning, and more flights are to come.
As if Stratolaunch wasn’t busy enough, it also plans on offering up its system to the Department of Defense to help reduce risk in flight testing. It’s going to be interesting to see how this plane gets used now that it under new ownership, but for now, it’s just amazing to watch.