Stratolaunch, the world’s biggest plane, takes off for its 2nd flight

Stratolaunch LLC

Stratolaunch, the world’s largest aircraft by wingspan, performed its second test flight after a two-year-long grounding.

The airplane took off on April 29, 2021, from Mojave Air and Space Port in California, and spent three hours and fifteen minutes in the air.

According to the press release by Stratolaunch LLC, the flight has been in preparation for the launching of its upcoming hypersonic vehicle, Talon-A. 

Stratolaunch was built as a platform for air launching rockets into orbit. It can carry 250,000 kilograms (550,000 pounds) of external payload and has a wingspan of 117 meters (385 feet), which is 28.5 meters (95 feet) more than that of the world’s heaviest and second-largest airplane, the Antonov An-225 Mriya.

In May 2019, shortly after the first flight of the aircraft, it was announced that Stratolaunch Systems – at the time a subsidiary of Scaled Composites and the owner of the aircraft – would cease its operations.

The airplane was put on sale, but in late 2019 the company received investments from Cerberus Capital Management, although it was unknown if it would continue working on the aircraft. 

Since then Stratolaunch LLC started marketing itself as a high-speed flight testing service, focused on providing a platform for air launching hypersonic vehicles.

The change in focus reflected the rising interest in both military and civilian hypersonic technologies, which became apparent at the end of the first decade of the 21st century. 

According to the press release, Talon-A is going to be a reusable, unmanned liquid rocket-powered vehicle capable of Mach 6. Its first flight test is expected in 2022.


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