Designed to fly satellite-carrying rockets to an altitude of about 35,000 feet (10,700 m), Stratolaunch Systems Corp’s Roc, the world’s largest aircraft, performed its maiden flight over the Mojave Desert in California on April 13. Lasting for over two hours and reaching an altitude of 17,000 feet, the successful flight was for the purposes of testing the aircraft’s performance and handling qualities.
Stratolaunch was formed in 2011 by the late co-founder of Microsoft, Paul Allen, with the intention of building an aircraft capable of carrying payloads of up to 500,000 pounds in the form of rockets and other space vehicles in an attempt to cash in on the anticipated future high demand to put satellites into orbit. Stratolaunch has boasted that its aircraft would make satellite deployment as “easy as booking an airline flight,” through providing the capability of an air launch to rockets.
Built for Stratolaunch by Scaled Composites, the Mojave-based aerospace company that also built SpaceShipOne, and constructed of carbon composites, the twin-fuselage aircraft has a wingspan of 117 meters, which is longer that an American Football field measured from end zone to end zone, and a fuselage length of 73 meters. It has two sets of twelve landing gear wheels and two nose gear wheels, with the pilot, co-pilot and flight engineer located in the right-hand fuselage cockpit and flight data recording equipment housed in the left fuselage. The plane is powered by six Pratt & Whitney PW4056 engines and has a maximum take-off weight capacity of 1,300,000 pounds, requiring a runway length of 12,000 feet.
The aircraft was given the nickname ‘Roc’ after Sinbad’s Roc, the mythical bird that was so large it could carry and elephant.Email Post to a Friend