The record for largest airplane has been broken. On Saturday, April 13th at 6:58AM, PST, the longtime record was shattered when Stratolaunch System’s “launch pad in the sky” took flight from the Mojave Air and Space Port. The aircraft was in flight for 2.5 hours, reaching a top speed of 189 mph and an altitude of 17,000 feet. The six-engine jet’s wingspan stretches 385 feet over a double fuselage with a reinforced center wing capable of holding up to half a million pounds. Designed to launch aircraft into space, Stratolaunch hopes to create “airline-style access to space that is convenient, affordable and routine.”
Since 1947 the Spruce Goose, Howard Hughes’s Hughes H-4 Hercule, has been the largest aircraft ever built and flown, with a wingspan twenty feet longer than a football field, it was designed to carry more than 700 men into battle. Because of problems getting steel during the second world war, Hughes built the airplane out of laminated birch and spruce, leading it to the iconic nickname.
Stratolaunch plans to have its new family of launch vehicles enter regular service sometime in 2020. The company’s unique air-launch system will use the world’s largest aircraft as a mobile launch platform, capable of launching aircraft to carry satellites to multiple orbits and inclinations on a single mission.