Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen let the world get a sneak peak at his airplane which is the largest in the world on May 31, 2017. The plane which has been hidden inside a Californian hanger at Mojave Air & Space Port. It has a wingspan of 385 feet standing 50 feet high on 28 wheels. The distance from this plane’s nose to tail is 238 feet.
Named the Stratolaunch, this plane has six Pratt & Whitney PW4056 jet engines for power. Stratolaunch without any cargo weighs 500,000 pounds. It has a maximum takeoff weight of 1.3 million pounds. The plane’s launch profile closely resembles that of SpaceShipOne.
Engineers have nicknamed the plane the Roc after a fabled Middle Eastern bird that could carry an elephant in its claws.
Wednesday was the first of many ground tests for this plane which Allen hopes to actually fly by 2019. Once allowed in the air, engineers hope that it will fly over 2,000 nautical miles at an altitude of about 35,000 feet.
Engineers will do many more tests before the plane with its two cockpits takes to the air with Allen saying that pilot and crew safety remain the top priority. The plane is designed to be flown by a three person crew sitting in the right cockpit while the left cockpit remains unpressurized.
Stratolaunch is designed to carry up to 580 tons in payload. Allen hopes that his plane can be used to carry cargo into space. Allen launched his Stratolaunch company in 2011 with the hopes of normalizing access to low Earth orbit. Current plans call for the plane to launch a single Orbital ATK Pegasus XL vehicle, but the plane has the ability to launch three Pegasus vehicles at the same time.
The company has already completed more than 42 space launch missions placing more than 80 satellites into low Earth orbit. Allen says that he hopes the Stratolaunch plane will be instrumental in helping scientists understand changing weather patterns leading farmers to be more productive around the globe.
Until Wednesday, the largest plane was the Spruce Goose owned by Howard Hughes. It became the largest plane to ever fly when Howard Hughes took it to the air on November 2, 1947, for less than a minute flying just 70 feet above the water. This wooden plane weighs 400,000 pounds. It has a wingspan of 320 feet.