The world's largest airplane built by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen is grabbing the attention of the world with its fascinating capabilities. Stratolaunch plane recently completed a test taxi, where it hit a top speed of 74km/h out of its hangar in Mojave, California.
Now, the ambitious chief executive of Stratolaunch System has something interesting to add to Stratolaunch's potential. Even though the world's largest plane is still a long way from its flight, there's a special project in the pipeline called "Black Ice."
Black Ice is still an idea on the drawing board at Stratolaunch System. The shuttle-sized rocket will make space explorations faster and cheaper. It'll be attached to the giant Stratolaunch plane to be launched into space from the Earth's upper atmosphere.
In an interaction with the Washington Post, Allen said Black Ice could be launched from anywhere as long as there's a large enough runway to accommodate Stratolaunch, conduct outer space missions, land back on a runway, and be ready to fly again.
"I would love to see us have a full reusable system and have weekly, if not more often, airport-style, repeatable operations going," Allen told Washington Post.
Black Ice is expected to be the size of the Space Shuttle used by NASA until 2011. The payload will be designed to last three days in the space. Besides running supplies to the ISS (International Space Station), deliver science experiments, the Black Ice could even be used to carry astronauts into space as long as it meets all the safety standards.
So if you're having doubts about the enormous aircraft that will carry payload the size of NASA's space shuttle, here are some fascinating facts that will clear your suspicions.
- Stratolaunch's massive size can be calculated by the length of its wingspan, which is longer than a football field or 117 meters (385 feet).
- The airplane is equipped with two cockpits, 28 wheels, 6 fuel tanks and six engines, which can power 747 jumbo jets.
- Stratolaunch weighs around 500,000 pounds without any payload.
- Stratolaunch is designed to carry a maximum take-off weight of 1.3 million pounds.
- Stratolaunch can carry as many as three rockets under its belly to about 35,000 feet (1066 meters). When the plane's high up, the rockets would drop, fire their engines and deliver the attached satellites to orbit.
- Stratolaunch's hangar in Mojave, California, was built by Scaled Composites contractor after special permits were obtained for the construction scaffolding.
- Stratolaunch is a brainchild of Allen, who sees the giant plane to serve as a mid-air launch pad for rockets. This will allow payloads to reach space faster and at a lower cost than the current standards.
- After successfully completing low taxi testing, Stratolaunch will move to the next phase of taxi testing at higher speeds.
- The first test flight of Stratolaunch is expected in 2019.