Stratolaunch 75% Complete!

What will be the largest airplane to ever fly (an obvious Burt Rutan design) is nearing completion. It's paid for by Microsoft founder Paul Allen and is intended to serve as a high-altitude launch pad for orbital rockets. The concept is basically a scaled up orbital version of the 'Spaceship One' 'do-it-yourself spaceship' concept that Rutan built and Allen funded back in 2004. The Stratolaunch concept was announced years ago, but I didn't know that it was actually proceeding.

It is proceeding. The launcher plane is under construction at Mojave California, where it was revealed at a press event. It's about 3/4 finished. Engines (6 of them, 3 on each wing) and landing gear (taken from two Boeing 747's) and some of the tail components (it has two fuselages and two complete tails) remain to be installed. The plane is due to be completed by the end of the year, with flight testing next year and operational satellite launches in 2018. Mojave is where Spaceship One was flown and where Richard Branson is building his tourist spaceships (one of which crashed a while back during a test). The Stratolaunch launcher plane is being constructed by Scaled Composites (the company's largest project ever), the aviation design and prototyping company that Rutan founded and sold to Northrop Grumman a while back. The Daily Mail article suggests that they are planning to use this to launch Sierra Nevada Corporation's Dreamchaser, a small space-shuttle type manned space plane. It could deliver and return astronauts to and from orbit. Finding a suitable booster is proving problematic. Plans to partner with SpaceX apparently haven't worked out and the two companies "parted amicably".

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A "space goose" that goes out resembling a trimaran of the sky and comes back a flying catamaran. The old Soviet An-225 Mriya only tops it in terms of body length, by about 11 meters. Before this the latter was supposedly the champion aircraft in terms of weight, but it's wingspan still wasn't longer than the wooden Hughes H-4 Hercules.
I was reminded of the "Spruce Goose" too!  The name Howard Hughes had escaped my recollection however.
They just rolled it out of its hanger for the first time. Despite its extraordinary size, it only has a crew of three. They will fly it from the starboard (right side) cockpit. The next thing on the agenda are extensive ground tests.

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(Jun 22, 2016 12:45 PM)Delte Wrote: I was reminded of the "Spruce Goose" too!  The name Howard Hughes had escaped my recollection however.

Exactly what I thought when I first saw the pic. I believe Spruce Goose only flown once and by HH himself. Is it in the Smithsonian?
It just flew for the first time today! About three hours ago at Mojave California

Mojave Airport is the extraordinary place where SpaceShip One, Burt Rutan's do-it-yourself spaceship that won the X-Prize flew from, and Virgin Galactic's suborbital rocket plane was manufactured and is currently based. The airport doesn't host airline traffic but instead specializes in things that include manufacturing and test-flying exotic aircraft prototypes.

Everything seems to have gone well.

Videos here:

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Good view of the wind turbine farm. Also looked like the edge of the Mojave aircraft boneyard there at the end. If that wasn't instead more maintenance and storage area for the other vessels still in the land of the living.

Wonderful photograph from Stratolaunch (and more evidence of how much the California desert looks like Mars)

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This is the best video that I've seen yet:

Stratolaunch press release:

April 13, 2019  Press Release
World’s largest aircraft takes to the sky for its test flight over Mojave Desert

MOJAVE, CA – April 13, 2019 – Stratolaunch Systems Corporation, founded by Paul G. Allen, today successfully completed the first flight of the world’s largest all-composite aircraft, the Stratolaunch. With a dual fuselage design and wingspan greater than the length of an American football field, the Stratolaunch aircraft took flight at 0658 PDT from the Mojave Air & Space Port. Achieving a maximum speed of 189 miles per hour, the plane flew for 2.5 hours over the Mojave Desert at altitudes up to 17,000 feet. As part of the initial flight, the pilots evaluated aircraft performance and handling qualities before landing successfully back at the Mojave Air and Space Port.

“What a fantastic first flight,” said Jean Floyd, CEO of Stratolaunch. “Today’s flight furthers our mission to provide a flexible alternative to ground launched systems. We are incredibly proud of the Stratolaunch team, today’s flight crew, our partners at Northrup Grumman’s Scaled Composites and the Mojave Air and Space Port.”

The test team conducted standard aircraft testing exercises. Initial results from today’s test points include:

Performed a variety of flight control maneuvers to calibrate speed and test flight control systems, including roll doublets, yawing maneuvers, pushovers and pull-ups, and steady heading side slips.
Conducted simulated landing approach exercises at a max altitude of 15,000 feet mean sea level.
The Stratolaunch aircraft is a mobile launch platform that will enable airline-style access to space that is convenient, affordable and routine. The reinforced center wing can support multiple launch vehicles, weighing up to a total of 500,000 pounds.

“We all know Paul would have been proud to witness today’s historic achievement,” said Jody Allen, Chair of Vulcan Inc. and Trustee of the Paul G. Allen Trust. “The aircraft is a remarkable engineering achievement and we congratulate everyone involved.”

For more information, please visit for fact sheet, aerial images and video of first flight. Please also follow @Stratolaunch on Twitter for the latest updates.


This photo shows a 747 in the lower left, compared with the Roc, showing their relative sizes

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There's probably more to this than just competitor circulated gossip, but "anonymous sources" gives a ray of hope that a good chunk of it could fizzle out into Virgin Orbit porn.

The world’s largest airplane may be grounded after a single flight

EXCERPT: . . . The aerospace company founded by Paul Allen, Stratolaunch, is closing operations according to a report by Reuters that cited anonymous sources. The company will cease its efforts to challenge traditional aerospace companies in a new “space race,” four people familiar with the matter told the wire service. [Company denies report, says Stratolaunch remains "operational."]

[...] Questions about the future of Stratolaunch arose almost immediately after Allen, a co-founder of Microsoft, died in October, 2018, at the age of 65. ... This cast a pall over the plane's first flight. With a 384-foot wingspan, this largest aircraft in the world took flight in April ... The company reported the airplane reached speeds of 189mph and heights of 17,000 feet during its 150-minute test flight before landing safely at the Mojave Air and Space Port. But it has not flown since.

[...] It now seems as though the Stratolaunch aircraft may really be the second coming of the Spruce Goose aircraft. This noted airplane, built in 1947 as a vanity project of the eccentric business magnate Howard Hughes, flew just a single one-mile flight at an altitude of less than 100 feet before going on display at the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum in Oregon. It had a wingspan of 320 feet. (MORE)

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