SEATTLE — The latest taxi test of the giant aircraft being developed by Stratolaunch for its air-launch system is a sign the plane’s first flight may take place soon.
The company announced Jan. 9 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. That test also featured a “rotation authority maneuver” that briefly lifted the plane’s nose gear off the ground.
This was the latest in a series of taxi tests, where the airplane goes down the runway under its own power but does not take off. That test program started in late 2017, with subsequent tests at increasing speeds.
During a briefing with reporters in April 2018, company officials said they were planning three more taxi tests before attempting the plane’s first flight. That final taxi test, they said then, would reach a speech of about 220 kilometers per hour.
At the time, Stratolaunch expected to be ready for a first flight of the aircraft in the summer of 2018, and hasn’t disclosed reasons for the delay. There was industry speculation that Stratolaunch ...