Aircraft

World's largest plane edges towards takeoff speeds on the runway

World's largest plane edges to...
The latest taxi test brings Stratolaunch closer to take-off
The latest taxi test brings Stratolaunch closer to take-off
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After emerging from its hangar to huge fanfare in the middle of 2017, the Stratolaunch aircraft has been slowly but surely edging towards takeoff
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After emerging from its hangar to huge fanfare in the middle of 2017, the Stratolaunch aircraft has been slowly but surely edging towards takeoff
If the Stratolaunch does eventually take flight it will be the largest plane ever to do so
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If the Stratolaunch does eventually take flight it will be the largest plane ever to do so
The latest taxi test brings Stratolaunch closer to take-off
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The latest taxi test brings Stratolaunch closer to take-off
The Stratolaunch does a small wheelie on the runway
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The Stratolaunch does a small wheelie on the runway
With a massive wingspan of 385 ft (117 m), the Stratolaunch plane tips the scales at  500,000 lb (226,000 kg)
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With a massive wingspan of 385 ft (117 m), the Stratolaunch plane tips the scales at  500,000 lb (226,000 kg)
The Stratolaunch plane tips the scales at  500,000 lb (226,000 kg) 
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The Stratolaunch plane tips the scales at  500,000 lb (226,000 kg) 
The Stratolaunch plane is built to accommodate payloads up to 550,000 lb (249,476 kg)
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The Stratolaunch plane is built to accommodate payloads up to 550,000 lb (249,476 kg)
The Stratolaunch, the world's largest plane
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The Stratolaunch, the world's largest plane
After emerging from its hangar to huge fanfare in the middle of 2017, the Stratolaunch aircraft has been slowly but surely edging towards takeoff
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After emerging from its hangar to huge fanfare in the middle of 2017, the Stratolaunch aircraft has been slowly but surely edging towards takeoff

After first emerging from its hangar in the middle of 2017, the Stratolaunch aircraft has been slowly but surely edging towards takeoff with a series of increasingly rapid taxi tests. Its latest outing has seen the team clock the gargantuan dual-fuselage plane at speeds approaching those typically needed for regular aircraft to lift-off on the runway.

With a massive wingspan of 385 ft (117 m), the Stratolaunch plane tips the scales at 500,000 lb (226,000 kg) and is built to accommodate payloads up to 550,000 lb (249,476 kg). If it does eventually take flight it will be the largest plane ever to do so, and its creators hope it can become the first commercial air-launch vehicle capable of delivering small payloads to various Earth orbits.

With a massive wingspan of 385 ft (117 m), the Stratolaunch plane tips the scales at  500,000 lb (226,000 kg)
With a massive wingspan of 385 ft (117 m), the Stratolaunch plane tips the scales at  500,000 lb (226,000 kg)

This would work in a similar way to Virgin Orbit's Cosmic Girl aircraft, which is also making promising strides, heading upward to a designated altitude before firing a separate launch vehicle into orbit and then returning to the runway for another mission.

Stratolaunch first rolled down the runway in March last year reaching a speed of 46 mph (74 km/h), and then upped the ante with a 90-mph (145-km/h) outing in October. In the latest round of testing, the team reports the aircraft has reached a speed of 136 mph (218 km/h). What's more, its front wheels lifted into the air momentarily, another promising step in demonstrating its capacity to get off the ground.

The Stratolaunch does a small wheelie on the runway
The Stratolaunch does a small wheelie on the runway

While the company hasn't made clear the exact speeds the Stratolaunch will need to hit on the runway in order to takeoff, it does say it takes off just like any other aircraft, which typically lift off in the 150-180 mph range (240 to 285 km/h).

Given its size, its entirely possible the Stratolaunch will need greater momentum than this to get off the ground. Officials told reporters last April that this third taxi test is expected to be the final one before the maiden flight, and that it expected it to reach around (136 mph) 220 km/h during the test, according to SpaceNews. Back in October the company also stated it hopes to conduct the maiden flight sometime in the next 12 to 18 months, so we shouldn't have long to wait.

Source: Stratolaunch (Twitter)

6 comments
VincentWolf
So with two cockpits with two noses who is the boss? Guy on the left says turn left, guy on the right says turn right and end result is the plane goes straight ahead?
Douglas Bennett Rogers
Maybe they can make this dock with returning spacecraft.
Cryptonoetic
The designers are going to wish the plane had a single-piece stabilizer. I would be curious to know how the engine controls are designed to minimize asymmetric thrust.
Babaghan
I can't help but think on how a physical connection between the horizontal stabilizers would increase the rigidity of the aircraft.
amazed W1
Agree with Babaghan it looks very "floppy" in plan. But additionally if the two fuselages can pitch by significantly different angles then the wing on one side could go into stall by itself and before the other, not an easy situation to deal with at that wingspan and putting the joining section into torque markedly.
Riaanh
They would have done extensive calculations, but there is going to be quite a few stressed out people at the first flight!