After years of planning, the next world’s largest plane is about to take flight.
Stratolaunch, with a wingspan of 385 feet, has two cockpits and six engines. The plane is meant to be used as a cheaper way to launch rockets into low-Earth orbit, NBC reported.
It is rumored that the Stratolaunch will be used to launch a reusable rocket nicknamed “Black Ice” sometime in 2018, according to the Independent. Paul Allen, Microsoft co-founder and owner of Stratolaunch Systems, told the Washington Post, “I would love to see us have a full reusable system and have weekly, if not more often, airport-style, repeatable operations going,” in 2017.
At the moment, manned missions using the gargantuan plane are mostly theoretical. The most practical use for the Stratolaunch will be for placing satellites in space.
The project has already undergone rigorous test flights at at the Mojave Air & Space Port in the Mojave, California. According to the project’s website, the plane completed its low-speed taxi tests in late 2017, which tested the aircraft’s ability to steer and stop. Other testing has proven the plane can reach the required speeds to take off, as well. Doing these tests under its own power prove the aircraft can complete a successful flight.
The Stratolaunch’s maiden flight is set for sometime this summer. According to the Independent, Allen is aiming for the project to be fully operational by 2020.