Stratolaunch aircraft that is designed to carry satellites into low-Earth orbit powered by six engines of the 747 aircraft, rolled out for the first time Wednesday.
The aircraft will carry satellites and their launch vehicles to a cruising altitude of 36,000 feet (11,000 meters) or so. "From there, the aircraft becomes something like a mobile launch pad, releasing the satellites and their launchers into orbit before returning to the runway." Paul G. Allen, the founder of Stratolaunch said in his article 'Tackling The Space Challenge'.
One of the advantages is that getting satellites into orbit would become easier and faster, Allen said. No longer would scientists or governments have to wait for a rocket launch from the ground; the Stratolaunch plane could take off from many runways and fly for hundreds of miles to find good weather conditions.
The dual fuselages of the craft each have a role. The right fuselage is for the flight crew and the left fuselage houses flight data systems, the company announced Wednesday.
The payload will be carried underneath the conjoined center wing. Six 747 engines will lift the craft off the ground, and 28 wheels will allow for runway-style takeoffs and landings.
Now, construction of this mobile satellite launcher has advanced enough to move the Stratolaunch craft out of the hangar for its first round of testing.
On Wednesday, it was first time that the plane has left the hangar, and also the first time the aircraft has held its own weight.
Till now the aircraft has been partially supported by scaffolding and other infrastructure used for constructing the giant plane.
The craft's wingspan measures 386 feet (118 m) across, 26 feet (8 m) longer than a professional football field. That makes the Stratolaunch plane the largest in the world by wingspan.
From nose to tail, the plane is 238 feet (76 m) long. It's taller than a four-story building from the ground to the tallest point of its tail, which towers 50 feet (15 m) high.
The Airlander 10, a helium-filled airship, is considered the world's longest aircraft currently flying, extending 302 feet (92 m) long. The craft weighs in at 500,000 pounds (nearly 227,000 kilograms) and is designed to carry payloads of another 550,000 lbs. (nearly 250,000 kg).
The first planned launch will be a single Orbital ATK Pegasus XL vehicle, a pre-existing rocket that can launch from carrier aircrafts. The company is likely to exbhit such a launch performance in early 2019.