Friday 24 June 2016

You call the Antonov a plane?... This is a plane

The Stratolaunch, backed by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, will be the largest plane ever built: and it is getting closer to reality.

Bigger than the Antonov An-225 — which captivated Perth during its visit last month — the Stratolaunch has a huge wingspan of 117m, has six engines and weighs 544 tonne. Currently being constructed in a hanger in California, the plane is set to take off early next year and eventually help launch satellites and spacecraft into orbit from an altitude of 30,000 feet. International journalists were given a sneak peak at the construction of the plane which is part of a wider business plan from Mr Allen to sell internet access, imagery and climate data from the network of low-orbit satellites. Like the Antonov, which was originally built to transport the Buran space shuttle, the Stratolaunch will be mainly focused on launching equipment and not on passenger space travel currently being explored by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin, Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic and Tesla founder Elon Musk's SpaceX. It is hoped the plane, which has a maximum speed of 850km/h — slower than a Airbus A380 which has a maximum speed of 1020km/h — will being commercial operation in 2020.
In 2011 the cost of the project was predicted to be $400 million, though the end price tag is believed the be well above that mark.

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