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Giant Stratolaunch plane gets closer to first flight

Stratolaunch taxi test
Mountains loom in the distance as Stratolaunch Systems’ twin-fuselage airplane is taken out for testing at California’s Mojave Air and Space Port. (Stratolaunch Photo via Twitter)

The world’s biggest airplane, built by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen’s Stratolaunch Systems, is one step closer to making its first flight after buzzing down the runway at California’s Mojave Air and Space Port this week at speeds as fast as 80 mph.

Stratolaunch’s latest round of taxi tests checked off another item on the seven-year-old company’s to-do list in advance of flight testing. Those test flights are expected to lead to in-the-air rocket launches by as early as 2020.

Based on a development plan laid out this spring, future rounds of taxi tests should reach on-the-ground speeds of roughly 100 mph, and then 140 mph. A speed of 140 mph, or 120 knots, is roughly what it’ll take for takeoff of the twin-fuselage plane, which has a record-setting wingspan of 385 feet.

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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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