Paul Allen, Elon Musk and several other partners are teaming up to build an aircraft that will be the largest aircraft in the entire world when finished. The aircraft is dubbed Stratolaunch and if all goes well the partners plan to begin testing the aircraft in 2016. Stratolaunch is already under construction at the Mojave Air and Spaceport in California.
The aircraft is being built using two Boeing 747s and will have a 385-foot wingspan when it is complete. That is 123-feet wider than the wingspan of an Airbus A380, currently the world’s largest passenger aircraft. While the Stratolaunch will certainly land itself in the Guinness Book of World Records, the reason it is so large has nothing to do with world records.
The partners plan to use the giant aircraft to perform in air launches of satellite-laden rockets. By launching the rockets in the air rather than from the ground, inclement weather wouldn’t delay a launch and the rockets would save fuel since they would already be at altitude and speed before the launch started.
The aircraft will be reusable and the payload it can carry will be limited. The aircraft is being built by Scaled Composites and the company says that if you put the aircraft on a football field its wings would extend beyond the goalposts by 15-feet on each side. Stratolaunch will need about 12,000 feet of runway to take off.