A giant six-engine aircraft with the world’s longest wingspan – surpassing Howard Hughes’ infamous Spruce Goose – took off from California on its first flight on Saturday.
The behemoth, twin-fuselage Stratolaunch jet lifted off from Mojave Air and Space Port and climbed into the desert sky 70 miles north of Los Angeles. It successfully landed two hours later.
Stratolaunch Systems chief executive Jean Floyd said the aircraft made a “spectacular” landing. The company, founded by billionaire Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, who died in October, is vying to be a contender in the market for air-launching small satellites.
“It was an emotional moment for me, to personally watch this majestic bird take flight, to see Paul Allen’s dream come to life in front of my very eyes,” Floyd told a teleconference briefing.
The aircraft is designed to carry as many as three satellite-laden rockets under the center of its enormous wing, which stretches 385ft, or 117m. At an altitude of 35,000ft, the rockets would be released, ignite their engines and soar into space.
Airplane with world’s longest wingspan takes flight, beating Spruce Goose record.
This story originally appeared in The Guardian. Image courtesy of Matt Hartman/AP.