World's biggest ever airplane unveiled by Microsoft co-founder

With a wingspan of 385 feet (117 meters), which is slightly greater than the length of an National Football League field, it is the world's largest aircraft, surpassing Howard Hughes' Spruce Goose H-4 Hercules.

Aiming for a maiden carrier aircraft flight later this year, Stratolaunch aims to perform first launch demonstration as early as 2019.

For the moment, this absurdly large aircraft will remain very much on the ground where it will undergo rigorous fuel tests. It has indicated that the Stratolaunch aircraft is ready for ground testing, engine runs, taxi tests, and ultimately first flight.

The world's biggest plane, created to carry spaceships, was innocuously rolled out of a hanger for the first time in the Mojave Desert today. It's so big that it has 28 wheels and six 747 jet engines. Allen owns a company called Stratolaunch Systems, which builds mammoth aircraft to carry rockets and launch them into outer space.

When unfueled, it weighs 500,000 pounds but can carry 250,000 pounds of fuel, and its total weight can reach as high as 1.3 million pounds.

For the first time since its construction, the Stratolaunch airplane - the world's largest - emerged from its hangar Wednesday, May 31 in California. The company hailed the event as a "major milestone ... toward providing convenient, reliable, and routine access to low Earth orbit".

When the ambitious venture was launched some six years ago by philanthropist Allen, partners in the project vowed it would revolutionize orbital travel in the post-space shuttle era.

"When such access to space is routine, innovation will accelerate in ways beyond what we can now imagine", Allen said in an emailed statement.

Orbital already launches Pegasus XL rockets using a converted Lockheed L-1011 TriStar jumbo jet, but Stratolaunch will be able to carry three of the rockets for launch on each flight!

The same launch concept is being used for SpaceShipTwo, the passenger-carrying craft being developed for Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic space tourism enterprise. "... We have a lot of exciting activity ahead as we enter the testing process, and we look forward to sharing our progress during the coming months".

  • Zachary Reyes