Aircraft

Stratolaunch, the world's largest plane, speeds down the runway for the first time

Stratolaunch, the world's larg...
The giant Stratolaunch aircraft has now successfully completed two runway taxi tests reaching a top speed of 46 mph
The giant Stratolaunch aircraft has now successfully completed two runway taxi tests reaching a top speed of 46 mph
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Images from the second taxi test performed on  Saturday, February 24 and Sunday, February 25, 2018
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Images from the second taxi test performed on  Saturday, February 24 and Sunday, February 25, 2018
Images from the second taxi test performed on  Saturday, February 24 and Sunday, February 25, 2018
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Images from the second taxi test performed on  Saturday, February 24 and Sunday, February 25, 2018
Images from the second taxi test performed on  Saturday, February 24 and Sunday, February 25, 2018
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Images from the second taxi test performed on  Saturday, February 24 and Sunday, February 25, 2018
Images from the second taxi test performed on  Saturday, February 24 and Sunday, February 25, 2018
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Images from the second taxi test performed on  Saturday, February 24 and Sunday, February 25, 2018
Images from the second taxi test performed on  Saturday, February 24 and Sunday, February 25, 2018
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Images from the second taxi test performed on  Saturday, February 24 and Sunday, February 25, 2018
Images from the first taxi test performed mid-December 2017
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Images from the first taxi test performed mid-December 2017
The giant Stratolaunch aircraft has now successfully completed two runway taxi tests reaching a top speed of 46 mph
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The giant Stratolaunch aircraft has now successfully completed two runway taxi tests reaching a top speed of 46 mph
Images from the first taxi test performed mid-December 2017
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Images from the first taxi test performed mid-December 2017
Images from the first taxi test performed mid-December 2017
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Images from the first taxi test performed mid-December 2017
Images from the first taxi test performed mid-December 2017
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Images from the first taxi test performed mid-December 2017
Images from the first taxi test performed mid-December 2017
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Images from the first taxi test performed mid-December 2017
All engine tests in September 2017 were successfully completed
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All engine tests in September 2017 were successfully completed
All engine tests in September 2017 were successfully completed
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All engine tests in September 2017 were successfully completed
All engine tests in September 2017 were successfully completed
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All engine tests in September 2017 were successfully completed
All engine tests in September 2017 were successfully completed
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All engine tests in September 2017 were successfully completed
All engine tests in September 2017 were successfully completed
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All engine tests in September 2017 were successfully completed

The gargantuan Stratolaunch dual-fuselage aircraft, with a wingspan of 385 ft (117 m), is one step closer to reaching the skies after it recently completed a second taxi test that saw it hit a speed of 46 mph (74 km/h) as it stormed down a runway in Mojave, California.

Announced back in 2011, Stratolaunch Systems is one of several companies working to develop an air-launch-to-orbit aircraft. After years of development the massive plane first rolled out of its hangar and into the public eye last year and since then has rapidly moved through a series of successful testing phases ahead of a first flight planned for late 2019 or early 2020.

Images from the second taxi test performed on  Saturday, February 24 and Sunday, February 25, 2018
Images from the second taxi test performed on  Saturday, February 24 and Sunday, February 25, 2018

The first successful taxi test took place in December last year as the aircraft traveled under its own power down a runway reaching a speed of 28 mph (45 km/h). This allowed the engineers to monitor systems such as steering, braking, anti-skid and telemetry. Now the team has ramped up the speed to 46 mph (74 km/h) as revealed in a new video showing the enormous aircraft barreling down the runway powered by six Pratt & Whitney turbofan engines.

Low-Speed Taxi Test

While no specific date has been announced for the next stage of testing, if the engineering team does eventually get this beast into the air it will be the largest plane to ever take flight. With a wingspan of 385 ft (117 m), the aircraft weighs an astonishing 500,000 lb (226,000 kg) and is designed to carry payloads up to 550,000 lb (249,476 kg).

Images from the first taxi test performed mid-December 2017
Images from the first taxi test performed mid-December 2017

Back in 2011, co-founder of Stratolaunch Systems Paul Allen commented, "We are at the dawn of radical change in the space launch industry." It may have seemed like an overly ambitious statement seven years ago, but after watching this mammoth engineering feat speed down a runway in 2018 it now feels like an entirely apt statement. We can't wait to see this thing get up into the air.

Source: Stratolaunch

9 comments
Babaghan
I'm simple-minded, but it would seem to me that adding a crossbar between the horizontal stabilizers would dramatically increase structural rigidity of the aircraft, but I have to assume the engineers working on this project have heard this a hundred times already.
highlandboy
Given the speed it will require to take off, referring to it speeding down the runway at 46mph is an oxymoron. This isn’t fake news it’s no news.
JimFox
We all hope this is not a C21 Spruce Goose!
DFrancis
@Babaghan. Yeah, my thoughts, too. And if the combined tailplane were placed at the top of the tailfins, there would still be massive clearance for ground crews. But, as you say, the folks at Scaled Composites will have done their sums.
Bob
I could see some turbulent air damaging the main spars between the wings. This thing will have to withstand wing flexes that could exceed 20 feet to say nothing about the twist possible between the two fuselages. The payload rating seems to be quite exaggerated as well.
noteugene
Why? Can anybody tell me why? Any sane person I mean.
MerlinGuy
Should it be named Stratotaxi for now? Then Stratobarelyofftheground next. Lets not get ahead of ourselves here.
Trap Star Ng'ombest
I think the distance between the Fuselages is greater! Air moving in between would tear them apart! Secondly i think Landing successfully will be a Nightmare! But All the best.
Kpar
It certainly looks fragile, but with the FBW and multiple sensors covering all the stresses of the center wing/support section, I have more than a little faith in Scaled Composites (not mentioned in this article, but a major contributor to this project).