The “Roc” – Stratolaunch Systems Corporation’s air-launch carrier plane – has conducted its first test flight over the Mojave Desert in California. The world’s largest plane has been years in development ahead of Saturday’s major milestone as it flew for 2.5 hours without issue. It will eventually carry up to three Pegasus rockets, the first two of which are now being assembled at Vandenberg Air Force Base.
The company was founded in 2011 by the late co-founder of Microsoft Paul Allen with plans for a new air launch system.
Since founding, progress has been evident in the incremental testing of the carrier aircraft on the ground. First, the aircraft was brought out of the hangar for the first time to test fuel systems. Engine testing followed, then low-speed taxi tests.
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Initially, Stratolaunch planned to work with SpaceX to develop a launch vehicle, notionally called the Falcon 5. The goal was to build a four or five engine variant of the Falcon rocket designed for air-launch. However, work between the companies ended in 2012, after SpaceX determined that too many modifications were required.
As a result, Orbital Sciences (now Orbital ATK) ...