This story was updated at 2:40 p.m. EST with details of the flight.
Stratolaunch, the private launch company founded by the late billionaire Paul Allen, has just flown the worlds largest aircraft for the first time.
The massive airplane, which has a wingspan bigger than a football field and isdesigned to launch rockets from the air, took off on its maiden test flight from the Mojave Air and Space Port in Mojave, California, this morning (April 13).
We all know Paul would have been proud to witness todays historic achievement, his sister Jody Allen, chair of Vulcan Inc. and trustee of the Paul G. Allen Trust, said in a statement released by Stratolaunch today. The aircraft is a remarkable engineering achievement, and we congratulate everyone involved.
The flight, while not officially announced beforehand by Stratolaunch, was spotted by photographers at the airport, where the company has beenconducting runway tests with the giant planein recent months.
It was surprising. In a way, I expected it to take longer, aerospace photographer Jack Beyer told after watching the planes takeoff, adding that it almost felt anticlimactic. And then I realized it was actually effortlessly in the air and was astounded. Beyer is posting his views of the Stratolaunch teston his TwitterandInstagram.
RELATED:Stratolaunch Test Photos: The Worlds Largest Plane in Action
Stratolaunchs rocket carrier plane, the largest aircraft ever built, takes off from the Mojave Air and Space Port in Mojave, California during its first test flight on April 13, 2019.
WOW. First flight of the worlds largest airplane. History is made. @Stratolaunch @NASASpaceflight stratolaunch /e7x0omxvVcApril 13, 2019
The huge airplane, named Roc, took off at 6:58 a.m. PDT (9:58 a.m. EDT; 1358 GMT) and stayed aloft for 2.5 hours, Stratolaunch representatives said in the statement. Roc reached a peak altitude of 17,000 feet (5,180 m) and a top speed of 189 mph (304 km/h), they added.
The flight, which allowed pilots to evaluate Rocs performance and handling, ended with a touchdown back at Mojave Air and Space Port.
Crowds cheer the first-ever liftoff of Stratolaunchs huge carrier plane Roc on April 13, 2019.
Founded by Allen in 2011, Stratolaunch is a private spaceflight company that seeks to launch rockets into orbit from high altitude using its novel megaplane carrier aircraft.The plane was built for Stratolaunch by Scaled Composites, the Mojave-based aerospace company that also built SpaceShipOne, the first commercial suborbital spacecraft.
The carrier plane is enormous, the largest ever built. It features twin fuselages and six jet engines, and has a wingspan of 385 feet (117 meters) long enough to cross an American football field from end zone to end zone. Thats about the same length as the International Space Station.
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The aircraft is designed to fly satellite-carrying rockets to an altitude of about 35,000 feet (10,700 m), then release the boosters so that they can launch their payloads up to orbit.
A historic milestone for the Stratolaunch team with this record setting aircraft taking flight, Thomas Zurbuchen, NASAs associate administrator for NASAs science directorate,wrote on Twitter. This is about going to the edge of space and beyond!
The worlds largest airplane takes flight! @Stratolaunch @NASASpaceflight stratolaunch /jmLs3mpztnApril 13, 2019
Stratolaunch initially teamed up with the spaceflight company SpaceX, which was going to build a modified version of the Falcon 9 rocket to launch from the giant carrier plane. But the two companies split within a year. Orbital Sciences (later Orbital ATK and now Northrop Grumman) then stepped in, with a planned new rocket called Thunderbolt.
But in 2016, Stratolaunch announced plans to use smaller rockets (Orbital ATKsPegasus XL vehicles). At one point,Stratolaunch was also developing its own series of rocketsand spacecraft, including a small space shuttle, to launch from the massive carrier plane. But earlier this year,the company shut down that programto focus on launching smaller Pegasus XL rockets built by what is now Northrop Grumman.
What a fantastic first flight, Stratolaunch CEO Jean Floyd said in the same statement. Todays flight furthers our mission to provide a flexible alternative to ground-launched systems. We are incredibly proud of the Stratolaunch team, todays flight crew, our partners at Northrup Grummans Scaled Composites and the Mojave Air and Space Port.
Here are some more views of Stratolaunchs historic first test flight.
Roc spreads her wings and the worlds largest airplane tastes the air for the first time! Stratolaunch @NASASpaceflight m/albte00VbgApril 13, 2019
According to Beyer, a large crowd of spectators watched Stratolaunchs test flight. It wasnt a massive crowd, but a larger gathering than he saw during recent suborbital space launches from the Mojave Air and Space Port by another private spaceflight company, Virgin Galactic.
At Mojave Air and Spaceport this morning once again hoping to catch the first flight of the worlds largest plane. Roc, as the aircraft is known, is now sitting at the end of runway 30 poised to make aviation history. @Stratolaunch @NASASpaceflight pic.twitter.com/ViFMoJfs8bApril 13, 2019
The wild blue yonder just got a little more wild! Stratolaunch @NASASpaceflight pic.twitter.com/hC2I5WZjFSApril 13, 2019
So Stratolaunch is end of runway….this could happen… pic.twitter.com/aWrUrOWo55April 13, 2019
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Email Tariq Malik at or follow him@tariqjmalik. Follow us@SpacedotcomandFacebook.
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