Paul Allen’s ambitious, fixed-wing satellite launch platform, the Stratolaunch, rolled out of its hangar Wednesday to begin ground and taxi testing. The colossal twin-fuselage aircraft, built by Burt Rutan’s Scaled Composites, is projected to be—by wingspan—the largest aircraft to have ever taken flight, at 385 feet wide. The prototype has a 500,000-pound empty weight, a target maximum takeoff weight of 1.3 million pounds and is powered by six turbofans scavenged from Boeing 747-400s.
“Today, we’re moving the Stratolaunch aircraft out of the hangar—for the first time ever—to conduct aircraft fueling tests. This marks the completion of the initial aircraft construction phase and the beginning of the aircraft ground and flight testing phase,” says Stratolaunch CEO, Jean Floyd. Stratolaunch hopes to reduce the size of rockets and therefore the cost of putting small satellites in space by launching from the stratosphere. The Stratolaunch is designed to carry three Orbital ATK Pegasus XL rockets, each of which will drive a satellite up to 1,000 pounds into low earth orbit.