World’s largest aircraft which was being constructed in United States for the last few years has finally emerged out of its hanger for the first time in California. Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen is the man behind the big bird as it was said to be his dream project. The fact that it has a wingspan larger than a football pitch makes it the largest plane in the world. The aircraft is called the Stratolaunch with a wingspan of 385 feet, a weight of 580 tons and six jet engines.
However, the purpose of the launch is not to carry passengers but to launch rockets into the space from the air. When compared with rockets being launched from the ground, this strategy would not only save jet fuel but also provide huge cost savings in other aspects as well.
Stratolaunch wheeled out of its hanger for aircraft fueling tests as it is aiming for ground flights very soon. The makers anticipate to begin the first launch in the beginning of 2019.
The initial idea of the project emanated in 2011 as it was designed to launch multiple rockets from a moving aircraft. According to the experts, it can take care of the weather issues that arise from rocket launches from the ground.
How big is the biggest aircraft?
The sheer size of the plane makes it fascinating having a wider wingspan than a football field. Without fuel, the aircraft weighs 226,800 kilograms and has a capacity of 113,400 kg of fuel.
The height of the plane is 50 feet with 28 wheels having a range of 2,000 nautical miles and the ability to fly at an altitude of around 35,000 feet. The flying altitude matches that of a commercial plane. Due to its large wingspan, Stratolaunch has exceeded the size of Howard Hughes’ “Space Goose”, a massive wooden plane made in 1947.
Paul Allen and his vision
Paul Allen, being the co-founder of Microsoft was always obsessed with rockets since his childhood. He co-founded Microsoft in 1975 with Bill Gates; however, within 7 years left the company due to some health reasons yet retained a significant stake in the company. Allen is also the founder and chairman of Vulcan Inc – an entity that manages his business and philanthropic efforts. In addition, he also has a multi-billion dollar investment portfolio.
Bloomberg states that the man has a net worth of $21.4 billion. Subsequently, it makes him the 35th richest person in the world.
Paul gave a statement last year by stating:
“Opening up access to LEO (low earth orbit) will deliver many benefits. For example, we could deploy more satellites that would enable better understanding of why our weather patterns are changing. Moreover it will also help increase agricultural productivity. And, we could study atmospheric chemistry more closely to better study and mitigate climate change. But none of this will happen as quickly without exploring new, flexible and streamlined ways to send satellites into orbit”
However, this is not the only company to attempt rocket launches from the plane. An entity called Virgin orbit had also announced similar plans of launching rockets from Boeing 747-400 two years ago. Some other entrepreneurs have also made several attempts in this domain in their efforts to reduce cost of space travel.