World's Biggest Plane to Rocket People into Space
Paul Allen project might be ready for tests in 2016
By Dustin Lushing,  Newser Staff
Suggested by Larry-Crehore
Posted Dec 14, 2011 10:00 AM CST
Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, right, shakes hands with aerospace pioneer Burt Rutan after a news conference about their agreement to build a giant airplane and spaceship, Tuesday,   (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)
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(Newser) – The world's biggest plane, with wings longer than a football field, is being built to launch astronauts and cargo into outer space. Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen and aerospace innovator Burt Rutan have teamed up to create the gargantuan aircraft, which will work by hauling a rocket high into the air and then blasting it into space, thus bypassing the need for a launch pad and saving on fuel, reports AP. They unveiled their plans yesterday.

The project comes at a time when NASA has discontinued its shuttle program and engineering firms are vying to fill the gap in space flight technology. Allen says the special plane—which boasts twin fuselages, a 380-foot wingspan, and six 747 engines—will "keep America at the forefront of space exploration." The first unmanned tests should take place in 2016.