Stratolaunch all-composite aircraft achieves first flight

Stratolaunch Systems Corp., founded by Paul G. Allen, in Seattle, Washington, has completed the first flight of the Stratolaunch, the world’s largest all-composite aircraft, with a dual-fuselage design and wingspan greater than the length of an American football field. The Stratolaunch aircraft took flight on April 13 at 0658 PDT from the Mojave Air & Space Port in Mojave, California; achieved a maximum speed of 189 miles per hour; and flew for 2.5 hours over the Mojave Desert at altitudes up to 17,000 feet. 

 

The pilots evaluated aircraft performance and handling qualities before landing back at the Mojave Air and Space Port. The test team conducted standard aircraft testing exercises:

  • Performed a variety of flight control maneuvers to calibrate speed and test flight control systems, including roll doublets, yawing maneuvers, pushovers and pull-ups, and steady heading side slips; and
  • Conducted simulated landing approach exercises at a max altitude of 15,000 feet mean sea level.

 

Stratolaunch Systems Corp., founded by Paul G. Allen, in Seattle, Washington, has completed the first flight of the Stratolaunch, the world’s largest all-composite aircraft, with a dual-fuselage design and wingspan greater than the length of an American football field. The Stratolaunch aircraft took flight on April 13 at 0658 PDT from the Mojave Air & Space Port in Mojave, California; achieved a maximum speed of 189 miles per hour; and flew for 2.5 hours over the Mojave Desert at altitudes up to 17,000 feet. 


The Stratolaunch aircraft is a mobile launch platform that will enable airline-style access to space that is convenient, affordable and routine. The reinforced center wing can support multiple launch vehicles, weighing up to a total of 500,000 pounds.
 


 

“Today’s flight furthers our mission to provide a flexible alternative to ground-launched systems,” Stratolaunch CEO Jean Floyd said following the initial flight. “We are incredibly proud of the Stratolaunch team, today’s flight crew, our partners at Northrup Grumman’s Scaled Composites, and the Mojave Air and Space Port.”


Read more on composites in SAE International's Advanced Manufacturing Knowledge Hub

 

“We all know Paul would have been proud to witness today’s historic achievement,”  Jody Allen, Chair of Vulcan Inc. and Trustee of the Paul G. Allen Trust, added. “The aircraft is a remarkable engineering achievement and we congratulate everyone involved.”

 

Founded in 2011 by Paul G. Allen, Stratolaunch Systems Corporation believes in safeguarding Earth for future generations. We do this by enabling convenient, affordable, and routine, airline-style access to space that empowers the world’s problem solvers – so that they can collect rich and actionable data and drive advancements in science, research, and technology from space. Fly to orbit with Stratolaunch.

 
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Courtney E. Howard is editorial director and content strategist at SAE International. Contact her by e-mail at courtney.howard@sae.org

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