The world’s largest aircraft came one step closer to reality on December 17 after successfully conducting its first taxi tests.
The Stratolaunch, an initiative of Microsoft co-founder Paul G Allen and Scaled Composites, is a platformed designed to carry rockets into the upper atmosphere where they can be air-launched to place payloads into low-earth orbit.
The all-composite aircraft has a payload capacity of 500,000 pounds (245,000kg), is powered by six Pratt & Whitney PW4056 turbofans, and has a 385-foot wingspan and two 238-foot fuselages. For the slow speed taxi tests, Stratolaunch travelled the length of the runway at Mojave Air and Space Port in California.
“This was another exciting milestone for our team and the program,” George Bugg, aircraft program manager of Stratolaunch Systems said in a release. “Our crew was able to demonstrate ground directional control with nose gear steering, and our brake systems were exercised successfully on the runway. Our first low speed taxi test is a very important step toward first flight. We are all proud and excited.”
Subsequent taxi tests will see the speed will gradually be increased, and braking and steering tests conducted. First flight is currently scheduled for 2020.