The Largest Plane in the World Just Completed Its Longest Test Flight
The Stratolaunch Roc's wings are longer than a football field
As far as aviation developments go, the predominate focus, by and large, has on speed — how fast an aircraft can travel without crashing. The startup Boom Supersonic has even developed a demonstrator aircraft, their vision for which would have huge implications for the industry if it were to come to fruition.
But while Boom Supersonic has its sights trained on velocity, there are other companies — Stratolaunch chief among them — laser-focused on size. In fact, the world’s biggest airplane — designed to carry air-launch-to-orbit rockets and hypersonic vehicles, according to a report from USA Today — just successfully completed its longest test flight to date.
The Stratolaunch Roc is somewhere in the vicinity of 239 feet in length, 50 feet in height and can carry 500,000 pounds. It’s so big that it requires a runway at least 12,000 feet long and is actually built from not one, but two carbon deconstructed Boeing 747-400 jumbo jets once belonging to the United Airlines fleet. For context, its wings are longer than a football field and it can carry up to three rockets, should it need to do that.
So far, Roc has completed nine test flights, all in the Mojave Desert — until the last of those flights, which took place a little less than two weeks ago.
“Roc completed its flight at 2:51 p.m. setting a new record for the longest flight to date at six hours and marking our first time flying outside of the Mojave range!” Stratolaunch tweeted on January 13, following the historic flight.
While Roc is merely a subsonic launch platform, the payload Roc will be carrying — Talon-A — will launch from Roc and travel at hypersonic speeds. A separation test of the Talon-A vehicle is slated for the first half of 2023. In a release, Stratolaunch CEO, Zachary Krevor, said Roc is “closer than ever” to its first hypersonic flight test.
That said, while it’s undoubtedly a huge advancement in technology and for the industry as a whole, there is admittedly something a little disconcerting about the idea of a plane the size of a football field flying overhead.
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