Paul Allen's Behemoth Plane Shows Its Face
Microsoft co-founder's Stratolaunch has 28 wheels, 6 engines, will launch rockets
By Linda Hervieux,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 1, 2017 8:33 AM CDT
Aviation fans took to Twitter to praise the Stratolaunch.   (Twitter )
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(Newser) – Move over, Starship Enterprise. The world's largest airplane, designed to launch rockets into space, has made its debut—and aviation fans weren't disappointed. Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen's next frontier is 28-wheeled behemoth with a 385-foot wingspan—longer than a football field—six Boeing 747 engines, and the capacity to carry 500,000 pounds of payload, CNN reports. The Stratolaunch rolled out of its colossal hanger in California's Mojave Desert on Tuesday to begin fueling tests. A launch is planned for 2019 after extensive testing, CEO Jean Floyd says in a statement. "Look how big that plane is," one fan tweeted. Stratolaunch will fly to the same altitude as a commercial jet, serving as a reusable platform from which to launch satellite-carrying rockets. Allen has written that his pet project will "significantly reduce" the time it takes to get a satellite into space.

While enormous, Stratolaunch doesn't hold all the records. It is shorter than Howard Hughes' 1947 Spruce Goose seaplane. And GeekWire noted last year that even Captain Kirk's ship, if it were ever built, would beat Allen's by a few dozen feet. Allen's effort dates back six years, when he teamed up with space plane pioneer Scaled Composites with the intention of making low-Earth orbit "more convenient, reliable and routine," Space.com reports. The mogul isn't the only member of the billionaire set obsessed with space: Virgin's Richard Branson, Amazon's Jeff Bezos, and Tesla's Elon Musk are crowding the field, with Musk's SpaceX clocking the first recycled rocket to launch into space in March.

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