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The world's largest airplane, built by the late Paul Allen's company Stratolaunch Systems, lands during its first test flight in Mojave, California, April 13, 2019. VOA

The world’s largest aircraft took off over the Mojave Desert in California Saturday, the first flight for the carbon-composite plane built by Stratolaunch Systems Corp., started by late Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, as the company enters the lucrative private space market.

The white airplane called Roc, which has a wingspan the length of an American football field and is powered by six engines on a twin fuselage, took to the air shortly before 7 a.m. Pacific time (1400 GMT) and stayed aloft for more than two hours before landing safely back at the Mojave Air and Space Port as a crowd of hundreds of people cheered.


First flight ‘fantastic’

“What a fantastic first flight,” Stratolaunch Chief Executive Officer Jean Floyd said in a statement posted to the company’s website.


Allen, who co-founded Microsoft with Bill Gates in 1975, announced in 2011 that he had formed the privately funded Stratolaunch. Pixabay

“Today’s flight furthers our mission to provide a flexible alternative to ground launched systems,” Floyd said. “We are incredibly proud of the Stratolaunch team, today’s flight crew, our partners at Northrup Grumman’s Scaled Composites and the Mojave Air and Space Port.”

The plane is designed to drop rockets and other space vehicles weighing up to 500,000 pounds at an altitude of 35,000 feet and has been billed by the company as making satellite deployment as “easy as booking an airline flight.”

Saturday’s flight, which saw the plane reach a maximum speed of 189 mph and altitudes of 17,000 feet, was meant to test its performance and handling qualities, according to Stratolaunch.

Demand for satellite deployment

Allen, who co-founded Microsoft with Bill Gates in 1975, announced in 2011 that he had formed the privately funded Stratolaunch.


“What a fantastic first flight,” Stratolaunch Chief Executive Officer Jean Floyd said in a statement posted to the company’s website. VOA

The company seeks to cash in on higher demand in coming years for vessels that can put satellites in orbit, competing in the United States with other space entrepreneurs and industry stalwarts such as Elon Musk’s SpaceX and United Launch Alliance, a partnership between Boeing and Lockheed Martin.

ALSO READ: Asia Rivalries Japan On Taking Down China’s Aircraft Carriers

Stratolaunch has said that it intends to launch its first rockets from the Roc in 2020 at the earliest. Allen died in October 2018 while suffering from non-Hodgkins’ lymphoma, just months after the plane’s development was unveiled.

“We all know Paul would have been proud to witness today’s historic achievement,” said Jody Allen, Chair of Vulcan Inc and Trustee of the Paul G. Allen Trust. “The aircraft is a remarkable engineering achievement and we congratulate everyone involved.” (VOA)


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The Prime Minister continued in her speech: "Commanding the imagination of the world through the pursuit of excellence, her creativity, her discipline, and above all else, her extraordinary commitment to the land of her birth. "Having satisfied that, Ambassador Robyn Rihanna Fenty has given service to Barbados which has been exemplified by visionary and pioneering leadership, extraordinary achievement and the attaining of the highest excellence to the Government of Barbados." It comes after a historic move for Barbados, which has become a republic after almost 400 years and welcomes its first president, Sandra Mason, after removing Queen Elizabeth as head of state. (IANS/ MBI)


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