The world's largest aircraft, the Stratolaunch rolled out of its hangar for the first time to begin fuel tests. This marks the completion of the construction phase, and the commencement of the ground and flight testing phase. The Stratolaunch aircraft is built by Statolaunch Systems Corporation, a company owned by Paul Allen who co-founded Microsoft with Bill Gates. The aircraft is expected to provide affordable access to the low Earth orbit, favored by a type of nanosatellites known as CubeSats that are seeing increase in adoption.
The aircraft has a wingspan 385 feet and measures 238 feet from nose to tail. The top of the tail is fifty feet above the ground. The jet engines and some other critical components were sourced from two Boeing 747-400s. There are two fuselages on the aircraft, and the rocket or launch vehicle will be mounted in the gap between the two.
The aircraft weighs more about 226,000 kilograms and can support payloads of up to 2,49,000 kilograms. The total maximum take of weight is 5,89,000 kilograms, which is roughly the weight of 108 adult male Asian elephants.
The initial launch is expected to take place with a single Pegasus launch vehicle from Orbital. The aircraft can carry up to three Pegasus vehicles in a single flight. In order to provide more options to customers, Stratolaunch is exploring supporting a wide range of other launch vehicles as well. Ground and flightline testing will take place at the Mojave Air and Space Port. The first launch demonstration is expected to take place in 2019.