The largest plane in the world will take off in 2016

Next year, engineers will begin to test the largest plane ever made. Named the Stratolaunch, the supersized aircraft is currently being constructed in the Mojave Air and Space Port in California. Funded by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, and partners including Elon Musk, the project originally began in 2011 and could be ready as early as 2016.

Air launching

Allen and his investors believe the Stratolaunch can be used as a safer, low-cost alternative for launching satellites into space. Unlike traditional rocket launches, air-launches aren’t as sensitive and can even be more cost-effective. By using the Stratolaunch, rockets will be able to fire at a high speed and altitude, which means they’ll require less fuel.

Stratolaunch is using the services of Scaled Composites to construct the world’s largest airplane. The company – also owned by one of the Stratolaunch’s backers – will use the components from two Boeing 747s. The result? The Stratolaunch will have a wingspan of 385ft, and use six engines. 

Its size does come at a price, however. While most planes require around 7,000 to 8,000 feet of runway to take off, the Stratolaunch will require 12,000 to generate the lift needed for flight. As a result, it’s likely that the Stratolaunch will be limited to a small number of airfields around the world.

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