The world’s largest plane is so big, it needs two fuselages with separate cockpits.
It’s called the Stratolaunch, and it’s designed to launch rockets into space in what is known as low-Earth orbit, which means the spacecraft is between 99 and 1,200 miles above the Earth’s surface. (Most space flights, as well as satellites and the International Space Station, are in low-Earth orbit.)
Since it was unveiled in June 2017, the Stratolaunch has undergone a series of tests before it makes its first flight in 2019. On Monday, the Stratolaunch YouTube page posted a video of runway tests that saw the aircraft reach a top speed of 46 mph.
Here’s a look at the Stratolaunch, and why businesses might want to use it.
Stratolaunch Systems is owned by Paul Allen, who co-founded Microsoft.
Allen’s goal for the company and its namesake aircraft is to “provide convenient, reliable, and routine access to low-Earth orbit.”
It would do so by launching rockets toward space from mid-air, which the company hopes will be less expensive than current, commercial space launch options.
That would be particularly useful for companies who want to send satellites into space.
Its 385-foot wingspan makes it wider than a football field, and the larges airplane by wingspan.
The aircraft is 238 feet long, 50 feet tall, and has six high-bypass-ratio turbofan engines.
It weighs 500,000 pounds and needs 28 wheels between its two fuselages.
The aircraft needs to perform a series of tests before it can take flight.
The company most recently performed a runway test where the aircraft reached a maximum speed of 46 mph.
The Stratolaunch’s first flight is scheduled for 2019.