The aircraft has a wingspan greater than the length of a whole football field and it just took off in the desert. And no, this was not its first flight. This aircraft, known as the Roc, has been in development for a while and has already had its maiden voyage back in 2019. The thing is massive, to say the least, it’s like they joined two separate planes together to create a bigger plane.
The aircraft has a twin fuselage with a wingspan of almost 385 feet. If there was a Guinness record for the longest wingspan, this aircraft would be the winner. It took to the skies yesterday in the morning, around 7:30 am local time. In the Mojave desert in Southern California. The left fuselage is uncrewed, while the right fuselage has both the pilot and the co-pilot. The Roc is powered by six used Boeing 747 engines and weighs about 500,000 pounds.
The take-off was being watched by a number of journalists along with the team at Stratolaunch, the aerospace company responsible for the massive aircraft. Micheal Sheetz, a reporter at CNBC event tweet a video of the aircraft taking off and it’s a sight to behold. This was Roc’s second test flight.
You can view the tweet below.
The goal of this plane is to launch hypersonic rockets from a high altitude. This means that those rockets would require far less fuel to get into orbit. Though I don’t know if the trade-off between the Roc’s fuel consumption and the rocket is worth it. However, I assume that hypersonic rockets consume way more expensive fuel than an aircraft as big as the Roc. The Roc is also able to launch more than one hypersonic missile.
The goal of Stratolaunch is to make rockets and other spacecraft able to reach low-earth orbit easier. According to Stratolaunch’s website, launches like these are way better because they “can circumvent bad weather, air traffic, and other variables that cause delays with traditional ground launches”.
A reusable hypersonic prototype vehicle is also being developed by Stratolaunch. The idea is to fit two of these in the Roc and make them launch at a higher altitude. The prototype, called the Talon-A, will be capable of Mach 6 flight.
Another step closer to the goal of making space travel easier.