The world’s largest airplane has completed a record-breaking test flight, remaining aloft for six hours above California’s Mojave Desert.
The Stratolaunch Roc carrier plane is designed to carry and launch hypersonic vehicles, capable of lifting a payload of 220 tonnes.
With a wingspan of 117 metres – longer than an American football field – the Stratolaunch Roc is powered by six Boeing 747 engines.
“Our amazing team is continuing to make progress on our test timeline, and it is through their hard work that we grow closer than ever to safe separation and our first hypersonic flight tests,” said Stratolaunch CEO Zachary Krevor.
“We are excited for what’s ahead this year as we bring our hypersonic flight test service online for our customers and the nation.”
The company eventually hopes to use the mammoth plane to offer a “convenient, affordable, and routine” access to space, similar to the method used by Virgin Orbit.
The flight test from Mojave Air and Space Port in California on Friday was the second in which it had carried Stratolaunch’s Talon-A hypersonic test vehicle, with the firm hoping to perform the firs “drop tests” later this year.
During the latest test, Stratolaunch’s team practiced manoeuvres and communication sequencing for the first ever separation test.
The private spaceflight company was founded in 2011 by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, who wanted to make space launch “more reliable, affordable and accessible than ever before”. Stratolaunch only made its first flight in 2019, which was performed under new owners following the death of Allen in 2018.