Jump to content

Stratolaunch First Flight - satellite-launching aircraft

Don Hudson

Recommended Posts




A manned giant six-engine aircraft with the world’s longest wingspan – surpassing Howard Hughes’s infamous Spruce Goose – took off from California on its first flight on Saturday. The twin-fuselage Stratolaunch jet lifted off from Mojave air and space port and climbed into the desert sky 70 miles north of Los Angeles. It successfully landed two hours later.

The aircraft is designed to carry as many as three satellite-laden rockets under the centre of its enormous wing, which stretches 385ft, or 117 metres.


Edited by Don Hudson
Add photos
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 years later...

An update:

Stratolaunch Roc Plane the Size of a Football Field Takes Longest Flight

Ed Browne  6 hrs ago

Private aerospace firm Stratolaunch conducted a second test flight of its hulking Roc carrier jet on Thursday.

Footage of takeoff was posted online by the company's official Twitter account, and can be seen below.

We are airborne! pic.twitter.com/6jTkkqfjKd

— Stratolaunch (@Stratolaunch) April 29, 2021

The bizarre-looking plane has the largest wingspan of any aircraft ever. Its recognizable design features two fuselages, giving Roc the appearance of two normal-sized jets joined together at the wing.

Roc's total wingspan is 384 feet—much longer than that of the Airbus A380, the world's biggest passenger jet, which has a wingspan of around 262 feet.

It also dwarfs the wingspan of the enormous Antonov An-225 transport aircraft, touted as the biggest military transport aircraft in the world by Military Today. That has a wingspan of 290 feet.

Put another way, the Roc's wingspan is longer than an NFL football field, which measures 360 feet, end to end.

If the Roc was put on its side so that the wings were vertical, the plane would be nearly as tall as the Great Pyramid of Giza.

Roc is powered by six Boeing 747 engines that allow it to carry more than 1,300,000 lb of weight at takeoff. Its center wing can support up to 500,000 lb.

It is designed to carry other aircraft into the air and then release them for a mid-air launch.

Stratolaunch was founded in 2011 by the late Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. At the time, Allen envisioned Roc as a plane that would be able to launch satellites into space from mid-air.

However, Stratolaunch changed hands in 2019, and Roc has been repurposed to carry hypersonic vehicles—or vehicles that can travel more than five times the speed of sound.

Hypersonic technology is something the U.S. military has shown interest in, and Stratolaunch could help with U.S. defense development in that area, the company says.

David Millman, chief technology officer for Stratolaunch, told Geekwire: "That's exactly one of the areas that we're looking at: how can we help the Department of Defense in mitigating risks for all their extensive flight testing."

Alongside Roc, Stratolaunch is also developing Talon-A, a testbed for hypersonic research and experiments.

In an October 2020 press release, technology company Draper, which has partnered with Stratolaunch, said Talon-A "is designed for use by government, including the Department of Defense, the commercial sector and academia, which will contract for payload capacity for space or earth applications."

Thursday's flight saw Roc take off from the Mojave Air and Space Port in California at 10:28 a.m. EDT. It reached an altitude of 14,000 feet and a top speed of just under 200 mph, according to Space.com. It flew for more than three hours.

Roc made its first ever flight in April 2019 from the same spaceport.


Link to comment
Share on other sites

Function over form....I guess. It is like a really bad movie where it is actually good in some respects. Definitely in the category of things that Mom loves.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

If the rocket launching thing doesn't work out, then maybe hand a fuel tank in the middle and outfit those huge fuselage sections as a luxury hotel.  Most exotic B&B I could think of ;-) 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 1 year later...

I thought this project was dead but evidently it has new life.

World's Largest Plane Pulls Off Its Latest Flight Test

Passant Rabie - 4h ago
FollowView Profile

The biggest airplane ever built just flew over the Mojave desert for its fifth test flight, inching closer to fulfilling its role of carrying and releasing hypersonic vehicles.

Private aerospace company Stratolaunch tested the carrier aircraft on Wednesday and is currently analyzing the data gathered during the test flight, according to a company press release. It’s the fifth flight of the gigantic vehicle since tests started three years ago.


Roc, image.png.88bc8947cb15f390552bba902592c56e.pngnamed after the giant bird in ancient Middle Eastern mythology, flew for a total of 4 hours and 58 minutes, reaching an altitude of 22,500 feet (6,858 meters). For this flight, the team behind the airplane tested out a new pylon on the plane’s center wing that’s designed to carry hypersonic vehicles into the air (hypersonic refers to vehicles or missiles capable of traveling faster than Mach 5). The pylon, which measures 14 feet (4.3 meters) in length, should eventually carry the company’s reusable hypersonic test aircraft, known as Talon-A.

Stratolaunch was founded by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, who died a year before Roc took off for the first time in 2019. When Stratolaunch was first established, the company’s initial goal was to fly the very large plane to a high altitude from where it would launch the Orbital ATK’s Pegasus XL rocket into space (similar to how Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo currently works). Following Allen’s death, however, Stratolaunch switched its focus to developing, deploying, and flying hypersonic vehicles instead, setting low Earth orbit aside.

Last year, the company resurrected its rocket-powered hypersonic vehicle concept, which was part of Allen’s original vision for the company. Stratolaunch announced that it was planning to develop a larger hypersonic vehicle, dubbed Talon-Z, and a spaceplane nicknamed Black Ice that would carry payloads—and possibly passengers—to Earth orbit.

In December, Stratolaunch announced a contract with the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency to provide a testbed for developing defense strategies against hypersonic threats. Stratolaunch is seeking to mimic these missile threats with its hypersonic vehicles.

The U.S. government, worried about missile threats from China and Russia, has sought to amp its hypersonic weapons system and step-up its defense game. As hypersonic vehicles travel at high speeds, they are hard to detect, making it difficult for defenders to issue warnings prior to an attack. The latest test with Roc marks an important step forward for Stratolaunch and its partners.

“Today’s successful flight validates important hardware improvements to the carrier aircraft,” Zachary Krevor, Stratolaunch chief executive officer and president, said in a statement. “The pylon is a crucial component of our combined launch system, and I am proud of the team’s timely and quality integration work that occurred since our last test flight.” Stratolaunch is hoping to begin testing the Talon-A hypersonic vehicles later this year, according to Krevor.

The carrier aircraft weighs about 250 tons and boasts a wingspan that stretches 385 feet (117 meters) across. To me, Roc gives the impression of two planes huddled together in synchronized flight. The machine packs six 747 jet engines, rolls on 26 wheels, and can carry up to 125 tons of fuel. To gear itself up for take off, the plane needs to move through 12,000 feet on the runway. Stratolaunch expects to begin tests of its hypersonic vehicles in 2023.

  • Thanks 1
Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

  • Create New...