The world’s biggest airplane by wingspan, the Stratolaunch Roc, recently completed a milestone six-hour test flight over California’s Mojave Desert. With a wingspan of 383 feet, the dual-fuselage aircraft now holds the record for longest test flight of its scale.
On January 10th, 2023, the Roc took to the skies at sunrise piloted by two test crew. Reaching maximum speeds of 199 mph, the massive plane performed a variety of flight maneuvers and system tests at altitudes up to 14,000 feet. After six successful hours aloft, it smoothly touched back down at the Stratolaunch center.
Originally developed by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, the Stratolaunch is designed to air-launch orbital rockets and hypersonic test flights from high altitudes. Powered by six Pratt & Whitney turbofan engines, the plane features parts from two Boeing jetliners joined by a center wing segment.
While its first test flight was in 2019, the recent endurance flight marks a critical step for operational readiness. The Roc proved its ability to reliably fly multi-hour missions necessary to launch customer payloads into space.
With a payload capacity of up to 500,000 pounds, the Stratolaunch aims to provide a flexible airborne platform for aerospace launches. Reducing the need for ground infrastructure can lower costs and increase launch flexibility.
According to Stratolaunch CEO Dr. Daniel Millman, the Roc’s innovations in composite structures also make it environmentally friendly and sustainable.
As the world’s largest aircraft, the Stratolaunch pushes the boundaries of aviation to advance space technology. Its record-setting test flight moves the mammoth plane closer to being ready for operational missions. The Roc’s big debut over California’s deserts showcases historic innovation taking wing.