The Gigantic Stratolaunch Aircraft Just Flew For The Second Time

Stratolaunch second flight
Stratolaunch carrier aircraft takes off for its second test flight. (Image credit: Stratolaunch)

The Stratolaunch aircraft took off from Mojave Air and Space Port two years after its maiden flight.

The Stratolaunch six-engine jet, the aircraft with the world’s largest wingspan, has just launched from Mojave Air and Space Port for its second flight.

“We are airborne”, Stratolaunch’s official account tweeted at 14.32 GMT on Apr. 29, 2021, posting a video of the aircraft, nicknamed “Roc”, as it rolled on the runway and took to the air.

The second flight of the world’s largest aircraft lasted about 3 hours and 15 minutes and came little more than 2 years after the Stratolaunch Launch Systems Stratolaunch Aircraft Carrier, flew for the first time on April 13, 2019. That time, the aircraft conducted an initial test flight that lasted 2.5 hours achieving a maximum altitude of 17,000 feet and a top speed of 189 MPH before landing.

Stratolaunch company was founded by Paul G. Allen, Bill Gates’ former partner at Microsoft, who passed away some months before the aircraft’s first flight, in October 2018.

The Stratolaunch aircraft was intended to carry spacecraft to altitude where they would be dropped and then fly into orbit under their own power. The Stratolaunch can carry a payload of up to 500,000 pounds or 250 tons according to Stratolaunch Launch Systems. The gigantic Stratolaunch has the largest wingspan in the world at 117.3 meters (384.8 feet), significantly larger than the previous record holder, the Antonov An-225 “Mriya” heavy lift cargo aircraft. The Stratolaunch is powered by six enormous Pratt & Whitney PW4000 jet engines formerly used on the Boeing 747 that only used four engines.

However, shortly after the first flight, reports that Stratolaunch was closing started surfacing online. The company, facing serious financial problems, was sold and the gigantic aircraft seemed to be destined to same fate as the failed Hughes H-4 Hercules, or “Spruce Goose” who made a single flight in 1947. However, under the new owners, who have now plans to use the gigantic aircraft as a launch platform for reusable hypersonic flight research vehicles, the Stratolaunch Carrier Aircraft has successfully completed a second test flight, and more will probably follow in the next months, paving the way to the use of the aircraft as a launch platform for fully operational hypersonic vehicles.

About David Cenciotti
David Cenciotti is a journalist based in Rome, Italy. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviationist”, one of the world’s most famous and read military aviation blogs. Since 1996, he has written for major worldwide magazines, including Air Forces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, and many others, covering aviation, defense, war, industry, intelligence, crime and cyberwar. He has reported from the U.S., Europe, Australia and Syria, and flown several combat planes with different air forces. He is a former 2nd Lt. of the Italian Air Force, a private pilot and a graduate in Computer Engineering. He has written five books and contributed to many more ones.