Hypersonic aircraft developer Stratolaunch has taken its newly acquired Boeing 747 jet, adorned with its new livery, out on its first flight.
The modified Boeing 747, previously known as Cosmic Girl, was once part of Virgin Orbit’s fleet where it acted as a mothership for rockets delivering small satellites into space.
In 2023, after two failed missions it became clear that there was no future for Virgin Orbit so its assets, including Cosmic Girl, were sold off.
In May 2023, Stratolaunch announced that it has received approval from the US Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware to acquire Virgin Orbit’s modified Boeing 747.
Since then, the jet has been renamed ‘The Spirit of Mojave’ and has been painted in a brand-new livery with the Stratolaunch logo painted across the plane’s tail.
And on December 5, 2023, Stratolaunch took the jet out for its first spin as an official member of the fleet.
The Spirit of Mojave returns to its home at Mojave Air and Space Port. pic.twitter.com/kNEy650wEu— Stratolaunch (@Stratolaunch) December 6, 2023
According to Stratolaunch, the aircraft was named by employees as a “tribute to the passion of the Mojave aerospace community that has built and tested some of the world’s most unique aircraft”.
The aircraft will now spend a small amount of time on the ground to receive modifications for its new mission and is expected to be operational in the first half of 2024.
On December 3, 2023, Stratolaunch announced that the company’s dual-fuselage launch platform Roc had successfully carried a Talon-A hypersonic vehicle with live propellant for the first time.
Future test flights should eventually see hypersonic aircraft able to blast away from the Roc mothership.
While the modified Boeing 747 acted as a launch platform for rockets travelling into space under Virgin Orbit, Stratolaunch sees the aircraft as a vital part of its hypersonic aircraft development.