Mojave - The largest plane ever created (in terms of wingspan) took off from Mojave on April 13 for the very first time.
The aircraft has been under development by the Aerospace company Stratolaunch since 2011. The company hopes to use its twin-fuselage, six-engine aircraft with a record-breaking 385-foot wingspan to launch satellite rockets into space.
"All of you have been very patient and very tolerant over the years waiting for us to get this big bird off the ground, and we finally did it," Stratolaunch CEO Jean Floyd told reporters at the press meeting.
"The systems on the airplane ran like a watch," test pilot Evan Thomas also told reporters.
The aircraft reached a 189 mph speed and 17,000 feet altitude during its one hour and 50 minute test flight and returned safely to the Mojave Air and Space Port.
The program was launched in December 2011 by the aviation enthusiast and entrepreneur Burt Rutan and Microsoft co-founder Paul G. Allen, who died last October at age 65.
The Stratolaunch aims to carry 250-ton satellite rockets into the stratosphere (35,000 feet) and launch them for the rest of their way into space. Since there are only a few bases that can handle rocket launches, there is a tough competition among the aerospace companies due to long wait times.
But airplanes like Stratolaunch can take off from almost any runway with their payload.
The giant aircraft is powered by six Pratt & Whitney engines and using a 28-wheel landing gear that was originally designed for Boeing 747s. Its maximum takeoff weight (MTOW) is 1.3 million pounds.