New World’s Largest Aircraft Rolls Out Of Hangar

The new largest aircraft in the world, the Stratolaunch, has rolled out of its assembly hangar. The jet, made by Scale Composites (which is owned by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen), has some impressive features, such as its 117 metre (383.86 feet) wingspan, its 6 turbofan engines and 650 tonne gross weight.

Image copyright: Seattle Times
The aircraft’s engines are Pratt and Whitney PW4000 engines, seen today on many 747s, 757s, 767s, 777s, A300/A310s and A330s. They are each rated at around 56,750 lbs of thrust each, clocking in at a total of 340,500lbs of thrust. This is up 30,900lbs from the Antonov AN-225 ‘Mryia’ (the current largest aircraft in the world), of which its six Progress D-18T turbofans produce 51,600lbs of thrust, clocking in at around 309,600lbs. 

The Stratolaunch will begin ground testing in Mojave very soon. The huge aircraft is expected to carry rockets like the Pegasus XL to altitudes where it is easier to launch them into orbit, which has been set at around 35,000ft.

Image copyright: Popular Mechanics
The project of building this aircraft was originally projected to be around $300million back in 2011, but the exact cost is not yet known. To cut development costs, many avionics and components such as engines from ex-passenger aircraft have been used, such as the engines of an ex-United Airlines 747-400, and other components from a second of the type.

The first launch flight of the aircraft is projected for 2019. The aircraft will currently undergo ground tests in Mojave for the time being.


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