Stratolaunch aircraft makes 1st flight
MOJAVE, Calif. — The world’s largest airplane flew for the first time. At 6:58 a.m. PST (13:58 GMT) April 13, 2019, Scaled Model 351 took to the skies above the Mojave Desert.
Stratolaunch was founded by Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen to develop an affordable and accessible platform to air-launch rockets. Unfortunately, Allen was unable to witness the flight of the aircraft as he died of cancer in October 2018.
The flight lasted 2.5 hours and reached a maximum airspeed of 165 knots (189 mph).
“Today has been great. The airplane flew as predicted. It was a very smooth flight and the team had a lot of fun,” said test pilot Evan Thomas after the flight. “This flight really is a tribute to the hard work of all of the men and women who have worked tirelessly over the years making this program a reality.”
The aircraft has been in development since 2011 when Stratolaunch and Scaled Composites teamed up to build it. Stratolaunch is capable of carrying up to three Northrop Grumman Innovation System Pegasus XL rockets at one time. Currently, Pegasus rockets are launched from a Lockheed Martin L-1011.
The maiden voyage is yet another achievement for an already successful company.
“The Scaled team excels at tackling the hardest problems in aviation. We have test flown an average of one new aircraft type per year over our 37 year history,” said Cory Bird, president of Scaled Composites via a company-issued release. “Together with Stratolaunch, we have reached another aviation first by flying the world’s largest all‐composite aircraft and moving closer to increasing the accessibility of space launch.”
— Stratolaunch (@Stratolaunch) April 13, 2019
Patrick Attwell is a native of Houston, Texas but he currently resides in Austin, Texas where he studies accounting at Concordia University Texas. Atwell has had a passion for all things pertaining to aerospace, rocketry, and aviation. Atwell has worked to cover these fields for more than a decade. After he attended and watched the launch of NASA’s OSIRIS-REx mission it gave him what is known in the space community as “rocket fever.” Since that time, Atwell has followed his dreams and has covered events dealing with NASA’s Commercial Crew flight assignments at NASA’s Johnson Space Center and other space-related events in the Lone Star State.