The world’s largest aircraft, a carbon-composite plane, took its first flight from California, U.S. over the Mojave Desert in California.
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.
The white airplane called Roc, nicknamed after a giant mythical bird, has a wingspan the length of an American football field and is powered by six engines on a twin fuselage, took to the air shortly before 7 a.m. Pacific time (1400 GMT) on Saturday.
It 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.
“What a fantastic first flight.
“Today’s flight furthers our mission to provide a flexible alternative to ground launched systems,
“We are incredibly proud of the Stratolaunch team, today’s flight crew, our partners at Northrup Grumman’s Scaled Composites and the Mojave Air and Space Port, ” Jean Floyd, Stratolaunch’s CEO, said in a statement on the company’s website.
The plane is designed to drop rockets and other space vehicles weighing up to 500,000 pounds at an altitude of 35,000 feet.
It has been billed by the company as making satellite deployment as “easy as booking an airline flight.”
Saturday’s flight, which saw the plane reach a maximum speed of 189 miles per hour and altitudes of 17,000 feet, was meant to test its performance and handling qualities, according to Stratolaunch.
Allen, who co-founded Microsoft with Bill Gates in 1975, announced in 2011 that he had formed the privately funded Stratolaunch.
Allen died in October 2018 while suffering from non-Hodgkins’ lymphoma, just months after the plane’s development was unveiled.