The world's largest aircraft took flight for the first time on Saturday morning. Stratolaunch, a 500,000-pound aircraft with a wingspan of 385 feet that is built to send rockets into orbit around Earth, began shortly after 10AM ET from Mojave Air and Space Port in Mojave, California.
The inaugural flight is expected to last a few hours. It occurs only three months after Stratolaunch Systems, the company behind the effort, fired "more than 50" employees and canceled efforts to develop its own rockets. It was reported that the change in plans was caused by the death of Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, who started Stratolaunch Systems in 2011.
The Stratolaunch data-fuselage is designed to fly at an altitude of 35,000 feet, where it can launch rockets They start their engines and go into orbit around the planet. The company has already signed at least one client on Orbital ATK, which plans to use Stratolaunch to send its Pegasus XL rocket to space.
The road to today's launch involved a series of incremental tests in recent years, including the initial implementation and an engine test in 2017, and a series of taxis on the Mojave track at various speeds.