With a wingspan of 117 metres, the "Stratolaunch" model financed by Mircrosoft co-founder and billionaire Paul Allen is the world's largest aircraft. The "catamaran of the skies" is assembled from two discarded Boeing 747 jumbo jets and is powered by six engines. Last Saturday it took off for the first time from a launch site in the Mojave Desert in California.
However, instead of carrying passengers, the "Stratolaunch" aircraft is intended as a flying launch platform for rockets with satellites. The giant is to rise to a height of about ten kilometres and then release a rocket mounted under the wing between the two fuselages, which is then set to fly on to space. This is supported by the fact that rocket launches from the ground are significantly more expensive and jeopardized by bad weather.
According to estimates, Paul Allen promoted the project during his lifetime with an investment of almost one billion dollars. Half a year after his death, however, the future of the project is completely open. Although the US Air Force will seek rapid access to space in the future, the billionaire's heirs have already announced that they will no longer invest in the project.