The Stratolaunch aircraft has been rolled out of its hangar in preparation for ground testing. An initial launch demonstration is sheduled for 2019.
The giant Stratolaunch aircraft — designed to carry the Pegasus XL airborne launch vehicle — was rolled out of the specially built assembly hangar in Mojave, California for the first time on 31st May. Ground and flightline testing will be performed over the coming months.
The aircraft, built by Stratolaunch Systems Corp. in partnership with Scaled Composites and weighing in at 500,000lb (227,000kg), is the world’s largest aircraft by wingspan — 385ft (117m), 121ft more than the A380. It is designed for a maximum takeoff weight of 1,300,000lb and will be capable of carrying payloads up to 550,000lb.
The programme’s ultimate goal is to normalize access to low earth orbit, providing a flexible solution for launching small satellites weighing up to 1,000lb.
The aircraft will initially launch a single Orbital ATK Pegasus XL vehicle, with the capability to launch up to three Pegasus vehicles in a single sortie mission. The company has already started preparations for launch vehicle delivery to the Mojave facilities, and says it is actively exploring a broad spectrum of launch vehicles to provide more flexibility to customers.
The initial launch demonstration is scheduled for 2019.