By Andrea Romano
Updated: April 16, 2019
Courtesy of Stratolaunch

The world’s largest airplane just reached a very big milestone.

According to The Verge, the giant aircraft built by Stratolaunch successfully made its first official test flight from Mojave Air and Space Port in Mojave, California on Saturday.

The 500,000 pound plane, with a 385-foot wingspan, two cockpits and six engines, has been highly anticipated since 2017. Once complete, it will be used as a less expensive way to release rockets that will carry satellites into space, not commercial flights.

Courtesy of Stratolaunch

In 2018, the plane made its first journey outside of its hangar to complete a series of taxi tests to gauge its ability to steer and stop.

The plane’s first flight lasted for two and a half hours, the company said in a statement. While it is designed to fly up to 35,000 feet to effectively drop rockets to launch into space, the test flight reached a peak altitude of 17,000 feet.

Courtesy of Stratolaunch

“Today’s flight furthers our mission to provide a flexible alternative to ground-launched systems. We are incredibly proud of the Stratolaunch team, today’s flight crew, our partners at Northrup Grumman’s Scaled Composites and the Mojave Air and Space Port," Jean Floyd, Stratolaunch CEO said in the statement.

The test flight also performed several maneuvers to assess speed and flight controls, including “roll doublets, yawing maneuvers, pushovers and pull-ups, and steady heading side slips,” according to the statement.

“I honestly could not have hoped for more on a first flight, especially of an airplane of this complexity and this uniqueness,” said test pilot Evan Thomas, according to CNN. He added that the flight experience was “fantastic.”

Courtesy of Stratolaunch

Stratolaunch founder Paul Allen passed away in October 2018 before the plane was able to take flight. “We all know Paul would have been proud to witness today’s historic achievement,” said Jody Allen, Chair of Vulcan Inc. and Trustee of the Paul G. Allen Trust, in a statement. 

According to the Independent, the company aims to complete the project by 2020.

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