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article imageStratolaunch nears first flight after high speed taxi tests

By Karen Graham     Jan 12, 2019 in Technology
The world’s largest airplane, Stratolaunch, is inching closer to its first flight. During a highspeed taxi test yesterday, the team brought the aircraft to 118 knots, lifting the nose off the ground before aborting the takeoff.
On January 9, the company announced that its airplane, the largest in the world by wingspan, performed its fastest taxi test to date at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California, reaching a top speed of 219 kilometers per hour (136 miles per hour).
The taxi test also included a brief "rotation authority maneuver" where the plane's nose gear lifted off the runway. This latest test was part of a series of taxi tests where the plane goes down the runway under its own power but does not go airborne.
During a briefing with reporters in April 2018, company officials said they were planning three more taxi tests before attempting the first flight. At the time, they said the final taxi test would see the plane reach 220 KPH.
Stratolaunch originally said a first flight could come in the summer of 2018, but it was delayed and the company did not disclose any reason for postponing the flight. As it turns out, despite speculation on a 2018 first flight, it never happened.
Paul Allen, who founded Microsoft with Bill Gates in the 1970s and later went on to become an investor, philanthropist and sports team owner, died on October 15, 2018, after his latest battle with cancer at age 65.
Allen also founded Stratolaunch Systems in 2011, which built the world's largest plane designed as a colossal rocket-launching aircraft touted as the future of space travel.
New phase of testing program close
When the plane is ready to be airborne, it will take 18 to 24 months of test flights before it can receive an airworthiness certificate from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) before the plane would be ready to serve as an air-launch platform, according to
Stratolaunch plans on initially using the airplane for launches of the Pegasus XL rockets provided by Northrop Grumman Innovation Systems. The plane can carry three rockets, mounted on wing pylons between the planes two fuselages.
Orbital s Lockheed L-1011 Stargazer launches Pegasus XL carrying the three Space Technology 5 satell...
Orbital's Lockheed L-1011 Stargazer launches Pegasus XL carrying the three Space Technology 5 satellites, 2006
However, the company is also creating its own launch vehicle, called the Medium Launch Vehicle (MLV). The MLV is a new medium-class air-launch vehicle optimized for short satellite integration timelines, affordable launch and flexible launch profiles, capable of placing 3,400 kilograms into low Earth orbit, is scheduled for its first launch in 2022.
The company is also developing a Medium Launch Vehicle – Heavy. This is a three-core MLV variant with the capability to deploy heavier payloads of up to 6,000 kilograms into low Earth orbit.
These vehicles will be powered by an engine called the PGA that Stratolaunch is developing. That engine, using liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen propellants, will produce 200,000 pounds-force of thrust. The engine takes its name from the initials for Paul G. Allen, the founder of Stratolaunch.
More about stratolaunch, Paul allen, Pegasus XL rockets, Medium Launch Vehicle, PGA Engine
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