Here’s a grand finale worthy of our “world’s largest” theme this month. It’s the world’s largest airplane by wingspan, which successfully completed a six-hour test flight over the Mojave Desert in January—its longest to date.
It’s called The Roc by Stratolaunch, and the video really says it all. Made out of carbon fiber and powered by six Boeing 747 engines, The Roc has a wingspan larger than a football field and is so big it needs a runway that is at least 12,000 feet long.
The Roc is what’s called a “mothership aircraft,” designed for testing and carrying air-launch-to-orbit rockets and hypersonic payloads. In fact, the catamaran-style aircraft can support a total payload of 500,000 pounds and carry up to three rockets.
The idea is that The Roc can act as a flying launching pad for sending satellites into space, rather than from the ground via rockets. Once the plane reaching a cruising altitude with rocket(s) in tow, the rocket’s engines will ignite, launch into space, then release the satellite into orbit. Since only a select few facilities like the Kennedy Space Center can handle rocket launches, The Roc presents a much more cost-effective and timely alternative to launching satellites into orbit.
We can’t wait for the passenger version.