Mojave, California-based Scaled Composites has taken a major leap in the development of the massive Stratolaunch program. The world’s largest aircraft (by wingspan) took to the tarmac this weekend, blasted its six Pratt & Whitney PW4056 engines to life and completed the initial taxi tests.
As the Stratolaunch rolled down the runway, the wings, which span 385 feet, protruded far past the edges of the 200-foot wide Runway 12-30 at the Mojave Air and Spaceport. The airplane is designed for loads a payload of up to 500,000 pounds.
“It was a lot less intimidating once we had it out there, in terms of how much runway we take up,” said Scaled Composites’ project pilot Joe Sweat. “From a visual standpoint, we had a lot more room than I was anticipating. Getting the airplane moving under its own power was really interesting – just seeing and feeling how the nose wheel steering reacts and how the brakes respond to the inputs.”
The initial slow-speed taxi phase is now complete, though there will be quite a bit more testing before the giant will take to the skies.
“Later taxi testing will include faster speeds and more challenging steering and braking tasks, all in preparation for first flight,” said Scaled’s test conductor Brandon Wood. “It was exciting to see this magnificent machine on the runway for the first time!”