Scaled Composites Model 351 Stratolaunch has made its maiden flight, cutting through the air with as much grace as a twin-fuselage aircraft with a wingspan length of 117 meters can. The record-breaking contraption was under development since early 2011, while the actual testing had started since May 2017. Finally, Stratolaunch Systems has arranged a real test flight, piloted by former F-16 pilot Evan Thomas, who climbed at an altitude of 15000 feet while cruising at about 170-175 mph, before lowering the 351’s 28 landing gear wheels for a smooth touchdown.
Stratolaunch 351 aims at revolutionizing space flight and exploration
Powered by a total of six Pratt & Whitney turbofan engines of 252.4kN each, the 351 is capable of carrying payloads of up to 250 tons, and reach a maximum speed of 853 km/h (530 mph) for a range of 1852 km (1151 miles). The Stratolaunch is targeting a market that is expected to grow exponentially over the following years, and it’s not the only player that goes for it. Richard Branson’s Virgin Orbit has been envisioning a similar implementation with their LauncherOne service, and they are also about to conduct their first test launch during this summer.