Stratolaunch, the space launch company founded in part by the late billionaire and Microsoft co-founder, Paul Allen, has sent his giant aircraft Roc into the skies for the first time. The flight occurred this morning at 6:46 AM from the Stratolaunch house in Mojave Air And Space Port in California. He was chased by a Cessna Citation jet during the inaugural flight.
Roc now takes the throne as the world's largest aircraft with a wingspan of 385 feet, a gross takeoff weight of 1,300,000 pounds, and six Pratt & Whitney PW4056 Turbofan engines that are normally found in the 747-400. Combined, these engines produced a whopping 340,500 pounds of thrust. The Roc, which bears the nickname of the huge bird of Greek mythology, will transport rockets to the sky before sending them into space. The idea is that the boat acts as a fully reusable and deployable first stage in a flexible way, which could drastically reduce the cost of placing payloads in space and doing it in a highly flexible way that traditional systems based on on launch platforms.
We have kept a close eye on the program, which has seen its scope somewhat reduced since the death of its main financial and visionary sponsor Paul Allen. Roc's intention was to transport a whole family of space launch vehicles, now that he has linked to only one, at least for the moment. As we have explained in the past, it is likely that the Pentagon is the most interested and lucrative customer of Stratolaunch.
Roc is still in the air at the time of publication. We will update this publication with more information as it becomes available about this milestone in the history of aviation.
UPDATE: 9:25 am PDT-
Roc has landed safely in the Mojave air and spaceport. Congratulations to Stratolaunch and all its partners for a first successful and historic flight!
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