Aircraft

First tests of world's largest plane's massive engines

First tests of world's largest...
Successful engine tests are another milestone crossed in the journey to getting this beast into the air
Successful engine tests are another milestone crossed in the journey to getting this beast into the air
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Successful engine tests are another milestone crossed in the journey to getting this beast into the air
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Successful engine tests are another milestone crossed in the journey to getting this beast into the air
The plane repurposes six used 747-400 engines
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The plane repurposes six used 747-400 engines
The Stratolaunch leaving its hangar for the first time back in June
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The Stratolaunch leaving its hangar for the first time back in June
The Stratolaunch has been in development for seven years
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The Stratolaunch has been in development for seven years
An illustration of the path the aircraft would take to carry its payloads into the stratosphere
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An illustration of the path the aircraft would take to carry its payloads into the stratosphere
Leaving the hangar
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Leaving the hangar
An artist's impression of the plane in the air
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An artist's impression of the plane in the air
A rear view of the plane
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A rear view of the plane
The hangar in the Mojave Desert was custom-built to construct the plane
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The hangar in the Mojave Desert was custom-built to construct the plane
The next milestone will be taxi tests sometime over the next few months
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The next milestone will be taxi tests sometime over the next few months
The plane weighs in at 500,000 lb (226,800 kg)
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The plane weighs in at 500,000 lb (226,800 kg)
An overhead view of the massive aircraft
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An overhead view of the massive aircraft
The first flight is planned for sometime in 2019
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The first flight is planned for sometime in 2019
The Stratolaunch peeks its nose(s) out of its hangar
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The Stratolaunch peeks its nose(s) out of its hangar
View gallery - 14 images

Back in June, the world's largest plane emerged from its hangar for the first time. Reactions varied from those skeptical about the design ("what an odd bird!"), to straight-up excitement over the innovative plane ("a stunning-looking aircraft!"). Now the team has crossed another milestone by completing the first round of engine testing, continuing the groundwork needed to get the beast into the air in 2019.

Stratolaunch is one of several new companies working to develop a functional air-launch-to-orbit aircraft. The project has been in development for almost seven years and this engine test is another successful benchmark crossed in the plane's development.

The plane carries six Pratt & Whitney turbofan engines lifted from two used Boeing 747-400s. The engine tests comprised three phases – a "dry motor" run using auxiliary power, a "wet motor" run introducing jet fuel, and finally an idling test where each of the six engines were observed to ensure they were all operating properly.

The plane repurposes six used 747-400 engines
The plane repurposes six used 747-400 engines

"Over the next few months, we will continue to test the aircraft's engines at higher power levels and varying configurations, culminating to the start of taxi tests," writes CEO Jean Floyd announcing the successful tests.

The Stratolaunch is undoubtedly a massive feat of aircraft engineering, with a giant wingspan of 385 ft (117 m), the company plans to continue engine tests over the coming months with the next milestone being taxi tests.

Source: Stratolaunch

View gallery - 14 images
12 comments
ErstO
Wow, I can already hear Brody, "were going to need a bigger .... Airport"
Vanilla Cat
800 seat configuration, 1 lavatory.
amazed W1
It's a worrying looking plane because the two fuselages are joined only at the wing. This has to be really rigid joint if the two halves have to be prevented from moving relative to each other. On the other hand if the middle section of the wing can twist, then one side of the outboard sections could be in stall while the other is not and one of the tail planes could be telling the rest of the plane to climb while the other isn't. It will be difficult to fly because of this, even if it is "fly by wire" design with built in corrections in the program to deal with this kind of flexibility.
Douglas Bennett Rogers
Maybe this could find a use in intermodal transportation. Then mass production would bring the cost down.
Altairtech
Following the comment fron amazedW1, indeed that center section will be highly stressed. Of course, they surely integrated a sophisticated flight computer that will be supposed to prevent asymetric aerodynamic forces on that section, but still if they only had joined the two horizontal stabs together, it would have added a tremendous safety margin due to the long lever arm to the tail. Anyway I suppose they know what they're doing, right?
Rehab
Perhaps ejector seats for the pilots? I would go with a super galaxy and drop the rocket out the back door.
Spod
This think is going to snap in the middle wing section, no doubt about it. No matter how advanced the flight control system, turbulence alone will cause massive stress forces at the roots of that centre section, there's no avoiding that with such a large aircraft. As the aircraft hits variable levels of turbulence, each fuselage will try to move independently of the other, with the centre section trying to tie them together. There will be enormous twisting forces along that wing section. Unless they have some amazing new composite material making up that section (and the sections of fuselage that connect to that centre wing section) it will fatigue and fail. As stated by others, at the very least the tailplanes should have been connected, it really makes no sense why they aren't.
Bill Brewer
Scaled previously built the Virgin Galactic White Knight 2 in this configuration (twin fuselages) and that workhorse has no problems with center wing stresses. Scaled engineers are badass.
VincentWolf
A bit bigger than Howard Hughes Spruce Goose isn't it?
dg
A spectacular achievement. As was the Hindenburg. High turbulence and stress will twist this riskily-designed craft into a fiery explosion rivaling Challenger. Eerily, it reminds me of an Albatross. The Ancient Mariner kind. This risky design has a unique feature perhaps not evident to everyone. With two cockpits, the two crews will have the opportunity to watch each other die. It would be the only compensation for being stupid enough to fly in this thing loaded with a cumbersome rocket carrying at least 100,000 lbs of rocket fuel.