Stratolaunch, the giant airplane in development in Mojave, is continuing taxi tests at higher speeds and longer durations, the company said this week. Paul Allen, the Microsoft co-founder who is funding the project, posted video of the taxiing airplane on Facebook on Monday. The airplane reached a top taxi speed of 40 knots, Allen said. The test crew verified control responses, building on the first taxi tests, which were conducted in December. First flight is expected next year. The airplane is intended to deliver payloads to low Earth orbit. As of Tuesday, Allen’s Facebook post had registered more than 84,000 views.
The unique aircraft has captured the imagination of an audience far beyond aviation aficionados — a Monday post on Ars Technica, a technology publication, is titled: “Dear Mr. Allen, please let your big bird take flight soon. Signed, everyone.” The aircraft has the longest wingspan, 385 feet, of any aircraft that ever flew, and is powered by six Pratt & Whitney turbofan engines scavenged from Boeing 747-400s. It first rolled out of the hangar last May, and began taxi tests in December. The airplane was developed and built by Scaled Composites.