Stratolaunch carrier aircraft rolled out

The craft is powered by six Boeing 747 engines and was constructed in an enormous, custom-designed, 103,257 sq-ft (9,593 sq m) hangar in the Mojave desert.

Stratolaunch Systems is still working on the rocket models that will be dropped from the carrier aircraft, but in October 2016 the company said it would use modified Pegasus XL rockets built by Orbital ATK for the first tests. Fueling tests will begin in the coming days, followed by engine runs, taxi tests, and finally first flight. Stratolaunch is meant to carry a rocket slung beneath the wing and release it at 35,000 feet.

(CNN) - Even if you had been allowed to kick the tires as the world's largest airplane was rolled out for the first time Wednesday, it might have taken you a while. The right fuselage is for the flight crew, according to the company, and the left fuselage houses flight data systems.

For comparison, the empty weight of the world's largest airliner, the double-decker Airbus A380 created to carry around 550 passengers, is 610,000 pounds. Its length is 238 feet, 12 feet longer than the Dreamliner, with a tail that is 50-feet tall, or almost the height of a five-story building. It was created to handle a maximum takeoff weight, including cargo, of 1.3 million lbs., according to Stratolaunch CEO Jean Floyd. "As the launch vehicle rockets into orbit, Stratolaunch will fly back to a runway landing for reloading, refueling and reuse", Allen says.

Since Allen first put forward the idea in 2011, both Elon Musk's SpaceX and Jeff Bezos's Blue Origin have successfully pioneered new reusable ground-launched rockets that are already dramatically lowering the cost of access to space.

Allen, owner of the NBA's Portland Trail Blazers and the NFL's Seattle Seahawks, has written about his desire to see more use of low Earth orbit without breaking the bank.

Progress on the project has been slow.

Yet driven by Allen's passion for space and science fiction and funded by his virtually bottomless purse - courtesy of co-founding Microsoft more than 40 years ago - construction of the airframe is complete and the Roc has finally emerged to the light of day.

Jean Floyd, Stratolaunch's chief executive officer, said the goal is to have a launch demonstration as early as 2019.

  • Zachary Reyes