Stratolaunch, the company started by Paul G Allen to launch rockets from aircraft into orbit, has reached a major milestone in its journey toward providing convenient, reliable, and routine access to low Earth orbit.
The Stratolaunch aircraft was moved out of the hangar – for the first time – on May 31, 2017, to conduct aircraft fueling tests., marking the completion of the initial aircraft construction and the beginning of the aircraft ground and flight testing phase.
Over the past few weeks, Stratolaunch removed the fabrication infrastructure, including the three-story scaffolding surrounding the aircraft, and rested the aircraft’s full weight on its 28 wheels for the first time. This was a crucial step in preparing the aircraft for ground testing, engine runs, taxi tests, and ultimately first flight.
Once Stratolaunch achieved weight-on-wheels, it was possible to weigh the Stratolaunch aircraft for the first time – it came in at approximately 500,000 lb. This may sound heavy, but the Stratolaunch aircraft is the world’s largest plane by wingspan (385ft). The aircraft is 238ft from nose to tail, and stands 50ft tall from the ground to the top of the vertical tail.
The Stratolaunch aircraft is designed for a max takeoff weight of 1,300,000 lb, meaning it’s capable of carrying payloads up to approximately 550,000 lb.
Stratolaunch announced last autumn it will initially launch a single Orbital ATK Pegasus XL vehicle, which has the capability to launch up to three smaller Pegasus vehicles in a single mission. Preparations have started for launch vehicle delivery to Stratolaunch’s Mojave facilities.
Over the coming weeks and months, Stratolaunch Systems says it will be actively conducting ground and flightline testing at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California.
June 7, 2017