Stratolaunch jet with 117-metre wingspan takes off for first flight

Stratolaunch a giant six-engine aircraft with the world’s longest wingspan, makes its historic first flight from the Mojave Air and Space Port in Mojave Calif. Saturday

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The world's largest aircraft, the Stratolaunch Launch Systems Stratolaunch, flew for the first time on Saturday, April 13, 2019.

After years of development in the desert north of Los Angeles, a enormous, six-engined mega jet with the wingspan of an American football field flew Saturday morning for the first time.

On its debut flight, the twin-fuselage six-engine jet flew up over Mojave desert.

The carbon-composite plane was by Stratolaunch Systems Corp, a company started by late Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, as the company enters the lucrative private space market. "We are incredibly proud of the Stratolaunch team, today's flight crew, our partners at Northup Grumman's Scaled Composites and the Mojave Air and Space Port".

"What a fantastic first flight", Stratolaunch Chief Executive Officer Jean Floyd said in a statement posted to the company's website. The plane flew for about two-and-a-half hours.

The aircraft constructed and designed by Stratolaunch has a record breaking 385-foot wingspan and has been 8 years in the making.

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The 117-meter wide plane took off from a runway in California's Mohave Desert and flew for 2.5 hours at altitudes of up to 5,000 meters at speeds of up to 304 km/h. According to Allen, who died October 15, 2018, this system would make satellite launches much easier and faster.

Saturday's first-ever test flight of Stratolaunch was flown by experimental test pilot Evan Thomas.

At an altitude of 35,000 feet (10,668 metres), the rockets would be released, ignite their engines and soar into space.

Mr Thomas said there were "a few little things that were off-nominal but really for a first flight it was spot on". "People want to see what's next".

In other words, this isn't your typical airplane.

The satellites that the Stratolaunch might launch in low Earth orbit in the future can provide communications and broadband internet connectivity to remote areas on the ground, according to CNN. It features six Pratt & Whitney PW4056 turbofan engines, a similar type to those being used on the Airbus A300, Boeing 747-400 and Boeing 767. First launch tests are planned for 2020, featuring a smaller rocket with a payload of up to 816 lb (370 kg).

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