World's largest plane makes first test flight

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World's largest plane makes first test flight

The Stratolaunch, the world's largest aircraft that just so happens to be created to "enable airline-style access to space", successfully took flight for the first time in the Mojave Desert on April 13.

"It was an emotional moment for me, personally, to watch this majestic bird take flight", Stratolaunch CEO Jean Floyd said in a phone call with reporters.

At a half-million tons, the jet took flight shortly after 10 a.m.at Mojave Air and Space Port, reaching a maximum speed of 175 miles per hour and a peak altitude of 15,000 feet. Pacific time (1400 GMT) and stayed aloft for more than two hours before landing safely back at the Mojave Air and Space Port as a crowd of hundreds of people cheered.

"Today's flight furthers our mission to provide a flexible alternative to ground launched systems", he added.

Citing initial parameters, the officials said that the platform performed a variety of flight control manoeuvres to calibrate speed and test flight control systems, including roll doublets, yawing manoeuvres, pushovers and pull-ups, and steady heading side slips. The company has already signed at least one customer in Orbital ATK, which plans to use Stratolaunch to send its Pegasus XL rocket into space. The reinforced centre wing can support multiple launch vehicles, weighing up to a total of 500,000 pounds.

The company seeks to cash in on higher demand in coming years for vessels that can put satellites in orbit, competing in the United States with other space entrepreneurs and industry stalwarts such as Elon Musk's SpaceX and United Launch Alliance - a partnership between Boeing and Lockheed Martin.

Space observes say that Stratolaunch should be able to pace satellites to a height up to 35,000 feet into the stratosphere.

The test flight came after a series of taxi tests of the plane at increasing speeds, culminating with one January 10 where the plane's nose gear briefly left the ground. "It definitely was ready to fly and wanted to fly", he said. "It climbed out quickly and that was great to see", Evan said.

The airplane's six Pratt & Whitney engines and 28-wheel landing gear were originally designed for Boeing 747s, but aerospace company Scaled Composites worked alongside Stratolaunch and repurposed three 747s to put it together. Stratolaunch would then return to the runway.

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