If you think you’ve seen the largest airplane, then you’re about to see one that’s even bigger.
This massive beauty has been named the Stratolaunch and is now the biggest plane in the world (it triumphs over the Spruce Goose).
Designed by Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft, this airplane has a wingspan of 385 feet (more than a football field), is 50 feet tall, and weighs 500,000 pounds without fuel and up to 1.3 million pounds with fuel. Not that’s what you call the world’s largest airplane.
The entire plane features 28 wheels, and six 747 jet engines—it’s so large that the California County in which it was built in had to receive a special permit for its construction.
But why did Allen built such a plane? If you guessed to take passengers from point A to point B, you guessed incorrectly. In fact, he built it to carry rockets.
Stratolaunch has partnered with Orbital ATK, a global leader in aerospace and defense technologies, to help launch satellites into space. Stratolaunch would carry the rockets up to 35,000 feet, drop them, and then the rockets would “air launch” through the Earth’s atmosphere and into space. It’s an extremely cost-effective way to send satellites into space compared to the traditional ground launch, which can cost $20,000 to $40,000 per pound, equating to around $500 billion per launch!
Allen believes that by “air launching”, the amount of money saved can be diverted to better the technology on and for Earth, making it more easily available, affordable and can even reduce the effects of global warming.
According to Allen, “when such access to space is routine, innovation will accelerate in ways beyond what we can currently imagine…That’s the thing about new platforms: when they become easily available, convenient and affordable, they attract and enable other visionaries and entrepreneurs to realize more new concepts.”
Ten years ago, Allen began his work in the space business when he financed SpaceShipOne, the first privately funded craft to go beyond the Earth’s atmosphere, reaching the edge of space. The licensing technology used for SpaceShipOne was sold off, but now with the emergence of Stratolaunch, Allen is back in the space business.
Stratolaunch is undergoing multiple tests and will be ready for its first launch in 2019. If you’re curious on how air launching will work, check out the video below, courtesy of BEST TECH.