Stratolaunch has just unveiled the world’s largest plane. It’s a massive plane that can carry up to 250,000 kilograms (550,000 pounds).
Stratolaunch was founded by Paul Allen, a co-founder of Microsoft. The company has an impressive track record as it was initially involved with Scaled Composites founder Burt Rutan, and the creation of SpaceShipOne.
The 117 meters (385 feet), 230,000 kilograms (500,000 pounds) plane is propelled by six Boeing 747 engines, it spans 73 meters (239 feet) long and 15 meters (50 feet) tall. The plane is purpose built to support the high altitude drop of small rockets that will launch into space.
It’s first usage will be in 2019 when it will launch the Pegasus XL, an Orbital ATK launch vehicle. Pegasus XL has already been launched from planes multiple times. They previous flew on L-1011 planes, but will be making the switch as Stratolaunch’s plane can carry up to 3 Pegasus rockets at a time.
Stratolaunch’s reusability and air-launch capabilities enable them to take an airport-style approach to operations for launch services. Stratolaunch will take off from a runway, rather than a logistically vulnerable fixed range, which allows them to avoid hazards such as inclement weather, airborne traffic and heavy marine activity. Stratolaunch’s airborne launch platform significantly reduces the risk of costly delays or cancellations.