Stratolaunch, the world’s largest aircraft by wingspan, also an aerospace company founded by the late Seattle billionaire Paul Allen, has sent the world’s biggest airplane out for its second flight test today, this is after two years of its first flight.
The airplane took off on April 29, 2021, from Mojave Air and Space Port in California, and spent three hours and fifteen minutes in the air.
“We are airborne!” Stratolaunch reported in a tweet.
“Today’s takeoff from California’s Mojave Air and Space Port at 7:28 a.m. PT marked the first time the plane, nicknamed Roc after the giant bird of Arabian and Persian mythology, got off the ground since Stratolaunch’s acquisition by Cerberus Capital Management in October 2019.”
Roc rose as high as 14,000 feet and traveled at a top speed of 199 mph during a flight that lasted three hours and 14 minutes — which is close to an hour longer than the first flight on April 13, 2019. During that earlier flight, the airplane reached a maximum speed of 189 mph and maximum altitude of 17,000 feet.
According to the press release by Stratolaunch LLC, the flight has been in preparation for the launching of its upcoming hypersonic vehicle, Talon-A.
Stratolaunch was built as a platform for air launching rockets into orbit. It can carry 250,000 kilograms (550,000 pounds) of external payload and has a wingspan of 117 meters (385 feet), which is 28.5 meters (95 feet) more than that of the world’s heaviest and second-largest airplane, the Antonov An-225 Mriya.
In May 2019, shortly after the first flight of the aircraft, it was announced that Stratolaunch Systems – at the time a subsidiary of Scaled Composites and the owner of the aircraft – would cease its operations.
The airplane was put on sale, but in late 2019 the company received investments from Cerberus Capital Management, although it was unknown if it would continue working on the aircraft.
Since then Stratolaunch LLC started marketing itself as a high-speed flight testing service, focused on providing a platform for air launching hypersonic vehicles.
The change in focus reflected the rising interest in both military and civilian hypersonic technologies, which became apparent at the end of the first decade of the 21st century.
According to the press release, Talon-A is going to be a reusable, unmanned liquid rocket-powered vehicle capable of Mach 6. Its first flight test is expected in 2022.