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The largest plane ever assembled, Stratolaunch’s Roc aircraft has performed its second test flight

The giant aircraft took off from Mojave Air and Space Port in south-eastern California with the test flight lasting three hours and 14 minutes, reaching a maximum altitude of 14,000 feet (4,267 m) and a top speed of 199 mph (320 kph).

“We’re very pleased with how the Stratolaunch aircraft performed today, and we are equally excited about how much closer the aircraft is to launching its first hypersonic vehicle,” Stratolaunch chief operating officer Zachary Krevor said during a postflight news conference.

The twin-hulled plane aircraft features a wingspan of 385 feet (117 meters) and is powered by Boeing 747 engines acquired from two retired 747-400 airliners and also features a borrowed hydraulic system, avionics, and landing gear. The  dual-hulled plane can travel more than 1,000 nautical miles and reach altitudes up to 35,000 feet and allows for a payload capacity of over 500,000 lbs (226,796 kg).

Its reinforced center wing provides lift, stability and pylons that can support multiple launch vehicles weighing over 500,000 lbs (226,796 kg), providing access to any inclination for multiple payloads.

 

The one-of-a-kind airplane made its first test-flight in April 2019 and was built as an airborne space launch platform, designed to lift a rocket into the thin atmosphere at 35,000 feet, where it would be drop-launched. The pilot flies from the right-hand cockpit, while the left contains the aircraft instrumentation.

The aircraft was designed by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen who established Stratolaunch in 2011 with the idea that Roc would be used to launch satellites in midair. Paul however died in 2018 before seeing his vision come to reality.

By Victor Shalton Odhiambo