Stratolaunch’s giant airplane picks up the pace

Stratolaunch taxi test
Stratolaunch’s twin-fuselage airplane undergoes taxi tests at California’s Mojave Air and Space Port. Note the size of the pickup truck that’s traling the plane. (Stratolaunch Photo)

Stratolaunch Systems, the space launch venture backed by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, says it put its super-duper-sized carrier plane through a fresh round of revved-up taxi tests last weekend at California’s Mojave Air and Space Port.

The six-engine, 385-foot-wide aircraft, nicknamed Roc, is the world’s largest airplane as measured by wingspan. It’s designed to carry up rockets for high-altitude launches in midflight.

Stratolaunch has said orbital launches could begin in the 2019-2020 time frame if the test program goes well.

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By Alan Boyle

Mastermind of Cosmic Log, contributing editor at GeekWire, author of "The Case for Pluto: How a Little Planet Made a Big Difference," president of the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. Check out "About Alan Boyle" for more fun facts.

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