February 5, 2023

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Wider than a football field: the world’s largest aircraft is almost ready to launch hypersonic devices | Sciences

The world’s largest aircraft has completed its ninth successful test flight. For the first time, the Roc stayed in the air for six hours and its trajectory extended beyond the Mojave Desert (in southern California and Nevada; ed.). Everything seems to be on track to eventually launch hypersonic missiles and devices across this mastodon.

The Roc’s wingspan is 117.3 meters, which is wider than a football field. Two parallel planes were fixed under those giant wings, making the giant look like a raft.

Most of the body is made of carbon. The rig is powered by six engines from a Boeing 747. The cockpit of the airship – which is located in one of the two cabins – was also recycled from an old Boeing 747. There are even analog control and operating screens in the dashboard. In short: it’s not NASA that designed this device, they’re real “space cowboys.”


Co-founder of Microsoft

The space company StratoLaunch was a project of Paul Allen, the co-founder of Microsoft who has been obsessed with space travel his whole life. So obsessed was he that in 1981—when he and Bill Gates were in the thick of developing the operating system for the first IBM computer—he took a break to attend the launch of the first space shuttle in Florida. Gates couldn’t help but laugh.

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Years later, Allen was introduced to a revolutionary aircraft manufacturer. Burt Rutan, an Elvis fan with big sideburns, designed the weirdest plane and got it into the air, too. Roc was Rutan’s idea, and the money came from Allen. Unfortunately, Allen was not allowed to experience the first flight, and he passed away more than four years ago.


The big dream is closer

Rocket Rocket can fly ten kilometers, drop a rocket there, and then launch itself into space. In principle, it is also a simpler and cheaper way to launch a spacecraft, but the competition with SpaceX (Elon Musk) and Blue Origin (Jeff Bezos) is, of course, fierce.

However, the big dream is getting closer and closer. A test launch of a hypersonic unmanned research aircraft has now been test tested for the second time. The real launch should take place in the first half of this year.