The world’s largest plane has been unveiled by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen after it left its hangar in the California desert for the first time.
The “Stratolaunch” has a wingspan of 385 feet, weighs up to 580 tons and has six jet engines.It has a wingspan longer than a football pitch.
But it isn’t meant to carry passengers.
The plane is designed to launch rockets into space from the air, saving jet fuel compared to the process of launching them from the ground and vastly reducing the cost of sending cargo into space.
It was moved out of its hangar for “aircraft fuelling tests”, according to Stratolaunch Systems, putting the end to its construction and paving the way for ground flights. It expects to demonstrate its first launch as early as 2019.
It stands 50 feet high, has 28 wheels and is expected to have a range of 2,000 nautical miles, flying at the altitude of around 35,000 feet, roughly the same as commercial planes.
Allen, who was obsessed with rockets as a child, co-founded Microsoft with Bill Gates in 1975.
The Stratolaunch project was first announced in 2011. It is designed to be able to launch multiple rockets, and doing so from a moving aircraft can evade the weather problems that afflict many rocket launches