The world's largest plane that finally flew was Microsoft co-founder late Paul Allen's idea

Prabhjote Gill | Apr 15, 2019, 03.09PM IST

  • The world's largest plane and the brainchild of Paul Allen, the Stratolaunch, successfully completed its first test flight on Saturday.
  • Jean Floyd, the CEO of Stratolaunch Systems, thanked the Microsoft co-founder for making this project a reality.
  • The Stratolaunch has the potential to greatly reduce the cost of launching satellites into low earth orbit.
As the world's largest plane, with a wingspan longer than a football field, took off for the very first time in Mojave Desert, California — the CEO of Stratolaunch Systems, Jean Floyd, whispered a quite "thank you" to Paul Allen, Microsoft's co-founder who passed away in October last year at the age of 65 years.

Allen's brain child, the Stratolaunch mega plane, is essentially a jet, carrying a rocket that's carrying a satellite. Once the plane takes off, it launched a rocket once it reaches an altitude of 35,000 feet which, in turn, launches satellite somewhere between 500 km to 2,000 km above the Earth.

Allen reportedly sunk over $300 million into the Stratolaunch before it finally rolled out onto the tarmac in February last year after six years of extensive work. The first test flight was actually scheduled for 2015 but got delayed when Elon Musk, the CEO of SpaceX and Tesla, pulled out in 2012 to focus on the Falcon 9 launch system.

This entire system has the potential to greatly reduce the cost of launching satellites into low earth orbit (LEO) by eliminating the need for launch pads and its supporting infrastructure, saving on fuel costs and being more resilient in the face of bad weather.

But, the Stratolaunch is already facing stiff competition from Richard Branson's company, Virgin Orbit, that's scheduled to test its first flight mid-2019 and there are still plenty of bureaucratic hoops for it to clear before it can officially be in the business of launching satellites.

Virgin Orbit's LauncherOne service is using a customised Boeing 747-400 which, unlike the Stratolaunch, is already a proven aircraft. Dan Hart, the CEO of Virgin Orbit stated, "We are well on our way towards providing new launch opportunities for small satellites that have waited too long for their ride to space."

See also:
Inside the world's largest plane, which has a wingspan longer than a football field and will debut in 2019

Behold, the largest plane in the US Air Force

Paul Allen's rocket-launching plane is the biggest in the world - here is how it stacks up to other great flying machines
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