The Stratolaunch, a 550,000 lb (250,000 kg) aircraft with a wingspan longer than an NFL football field, was rolled out for the first time last Wednesday. It is a project of former Microsoft exec Paul Allen.
The Stratolaunch carrier plane is designed to launch rockets into orbit from an altitude of 30,000 feet (9,100 meters). Initially, the plane will carry a single Pegasus XL rocket built by Orbital ATK, but the craft will eventually be able to carry up to three of those boosters simultaneously, Stratolaunch Systems Corp. CEO Jean Floyd said. The craft has a maximum full load take-off weight of 1.3 million lbs. (590,000 kg). It's powered by 6 Pratt & Whitney PW4056 jet engines. Those are the same engines used on a 747.
Stratolaunch Systems has been quietly designing and building the rocket-toting plane over the last few years.
"Over the past few weeks, we have removed the fabrication infrastructure, including the three-story scaffolding surrounding the aircraft, and rested the aircraft's full weight on its 28 wheels for the first time," Floyd said. "This was a crucial step in preparing the aircraft for ground testing, engine runs, taxi tests and, ultimately, first flight."
My first though when I saw it was, "I'll bet it's a real bear to taxi with two nose wheels that far apart."