World's Largest Plane Takes Off For The First Time

Illustration for article titled World's Largest Plane Takes Off For The First Time

The ultra-wide double-plus-big Stratolaunch dual-fuselage airplane took its first flight test Saturday morning from a desert runway in Mojave, California. The plane weighs half a million pounds, and is intended to be a launching mothership for space rockets.

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The intent of this plane is to strap a small rocket between the two fuselage to fly it up to near the edge of the stratosphere, at over 35,000 feet. In this way the rocket will not need the expensive and fuel laden stages to get its cargo into orbit (below). This plane intends to serve the same purpose as SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rockets, but ostensibly to more efficient ends.

Illustration for article titled World's Largest Plane Takes Off For The First Time

Much of the Stratolauncher’s systems are adapted from a Boeing 747-400, which is where the engines, avionics, landing gear, flight deck, and other systems are adapted from.

Regardless of its purpose, the Stratolauncher is officially the largest airplane humanity has ever put up in the air. It’s got a 385 foot wingspan. It’s cliche to describe something this way, but this plane’s wingspan is literally longer than a football field, including the end zones. It’s a big boy. And it flies. Astonishing.

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Via The Verge

Jalopnik contributor with a love for everything sketchy and eclectic.

DISCUSSION

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“. In this way the rocket will not need the expensive and fuel laden stages to get its cargo into orbit (below). This plane intends to serve the same purpose as SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rockets, but ostensibly to more efficient ends.”

Thats not how orbits work. If you simply get up high enough, you’ll just fall back down. Gravity up there is almost the same as it is on the surface. The trick is to get going fast enough so that as you fall you keep on missing the earth, and that takes about 17,000 miles per hour for the slowest orbits.

The speed the plane gives to the rocket is virtually inconsequential. The advantage the plane gives is to be able to lunch from virtually anywhere, so you can be at the most advantageous start point for your chosen orbit, or move your start point to get around weather.