The world’s largest aircraft, Stratounch, completed its first test flight in the Mojave Desert in California on the 13th, local time. The first flight lasted 150 minutes and then landed smoothly.
The six-engine, dual-body aircraft weighs 500,000 pounds (about 226.8 tons) and has a wingspan of 385 feet (about 117 meters). Its ultimate goal is to launch the rocket and then send the satellite into space.
According to The Guardian, the US space transportation company Stratolunch Systems has been developing this behemoth for eight years. The company’s CEO, Jean Floyd, said at the press conference after the first flight: “We finally did it. Watching the bird fly is an exciting time.”
The Strato Launch System was founded by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, an airplane fanatic who died in October last year. The flight of “stratospheric launch” became his last wish.
“When the plane took off, I whispered to Paul Allen, “thank you,” and his dream was fulfilled in front of my eyes,” Freud said.
How was the world’s largest aircraft developed? What secret is hidden in its fuselage?
According to CNN, the Stratospheric Launch System announced in 2011 that the world’s largest aircraft manufacturing plan, named after the “stratospheric launch”, tells the world that the mission of the aircraft is to transport the rocket to the stratosphere, and Send satellites to low Earth orbit. The company threatened that this process would be as simple as running a regular flight in the future.
The biggest highlight of the aircraft is the “big”, which is mainly reflected in the length of the wingspan (about 117 meters). The Boeing 747 has a wingspan of 212 feet (about 64.6 meters), which means that the wingspan of the Stratosphere launch is almost twice as large.
According to the National Post of Canada, the entire plane looks like a hill. It is equipped with six Boeing 747 engines, each with a cockpit and two landing gear wheels. The aircraft is mainly made of carbon fiber material, which is sturdy and lightweight.
In the test flight on the 13th, the “stratospheric launch” flew at a speed of 173 miles per hour (about 278 kilometers), and the plane climbed to a height of 15,000 feet (about 4,572 meters) before returning to the ground. Test pilot Evan Thomas said the flight was in line with expectations and the process was great.
According to the US media “connection”, according to the plan of the “stratospheric launch system” company, in the middle of the aircraft’s two fuselage, below the wing, can carry up to three rockets carrying satellites, when the aircraft flies to 35,000 feet (Approximately 10,000 meters) launched small satellites into low-Earth orbit after high altitude.
If this plan is achieved, sending small satellites into space by aircraft will be much cheaper than traditional rocket launches because it eliminates the need for expensive infrastructure on the launch pad and its surroundings.
Microsoft founder Bill Gates is unknown, and his entrepreneurial partner Paul Allen is also a very good business tycoon. Allen is not only the co-founder of Microsoft, but also the owner of an NBA team and an NFL team, and also owns a private aircraft museum.
Allen’s enthusiasm for the plane is unimaginable. According to Wired, he began repairing various types of fighters during World War II in 1990. The private hangar on the outskirts of Everett, Seattle, has 50 World War II fighters.
The reason why he loves the fighters is because Allen’s father had participated in the Normandy landing during World War II and survived the battle. The father’s experience had a profound impact on Allen.
After repairing dozens of fighters, Allen extended his interest to space flight.
According to the Forbes website, in 2004, Scaled Composites aircraft manufacturing company participated in the Ansari X Prize space competition. The company’s “Space Ship One” giant aircraft twice entered the space in two weeks and successfully won the 10 million prize in the space race. The “golden master” behind the plane is Allen.
Since then, Allen has been working on a launch vehicle for the “Space Ship One”, but after investing heavily in research and development for many years, there is still no result. So he gave up his own research and development of rockets, but turned to the development of giant aircraft as a platform for rocket launch.
In 2011, Allen established the “Stratospheric Launch System” as an investor. While developing the launch vehicle, he also cooperated with Musk’s Space X to plan to send the Falcon 9 launch vehicle into space. But the two companies eventually collapsed.
Allen did not give up. In 2016, he found a new partner, Orbital ATK, a private aerospace manufacturer that has received orders from the US Air Force rocket engine and is a competitor to Space X.
However, in the process of close cooperation between the two companies, Allen died of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma complications in October last year, at the age of 65. His death left the Stratospheric Launch System company in a difficult future, when many US media worried that the company might be dissolved.
Freud, CEO of Stratospheric Launch System, said that Allen had injected enough funds into the company before his death, but the company’s future is not clear, and it is not yet possible to determine the next flight time of the “stratospheric launch”. It is also not easy to obtain permission from the Federal Aviation Administration before the aircraft launches the rocket.
The “stratospheric launch system” company not only faces the dilemma of losing Allen’s support, but also faces the catch-up of powerful competitors on the same type of project.
According to technology media Engadget, Virgin Orbit, a space orbiting company owned by Virgin, is also launching an aircraft launch vehicle. In November last year, they fixed the rocket LauncherOne on a Boeing 747-400 passenger plane called Cosmic Girl for flight testing.
Although the rocket was not ignited during the flight, Virgin Orbit plans to test this year to tie the rocket to the wing. When the aircraft flies to 35,000 feet, the rocket will disengage from the wing and then ignite the propeller. , marching into space.
Because the rocket will cause changes in the balance of the fuselage after leaving the aircraft, the pairing of the aircraft and the rocket is particularly important before using this technology. A series of tests will also be performed before the official flight test.
With the rapid development of aerospace science and technology, human desire to explore space has become more and more intense, and countries all over the world and countless private enterprises are attacking the distant universe.