World’s Largest Plane: First Images Emerge Of Megaplane Designed To Launch Rockets Into Orbit

The first images have emerged of the Roc aircraft, which will be the world’s largest plane when completed, designed and utilized to carry rockets aloft so they can launch into orbit.

The plane is the brainchild of Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, according to the Daily Mail, and will reportedly have a wingspan of 385 feet. Currently under construction in Mojave, California, the plane will be carried aloft by six 747-class engines. The start-up firm, Stratolaunch Systems, is charged with building the massive aircraft, and when completed, it will represent the largest plane in history.

Named after a giant bird of prey in Middle Eastern mythology, according to Aviation Week, the plane will consist of two 238-foot-long fuselages. Purpose built, the plane is designed to carry satellites weighing up to 13,500 lbs to a height of 30,000 feet, launching a rocket at altitude. This process will negate much of the fuel needed to launch from sea level.

So far, roughly 200,000 lbs of composite structure have been completed for the plane, according to Scaled Composites president Kevin Mickey. At this point, the plane is thought to be roughly a year away from its first flight tests, with launch operations scheduled to be tested in 2018. The plane will carry a three stage Orbital Sciences-built Thunderbolt launch vehicle, which will use both solid and liquid fueled rockets to lift payloads into orbit.

Instead of the Thunderbolt, the Roc plane could also launch a Dream Chaser spaceship, carrying occupants into orbit. As the Inquisitr has previously reported, the Dream Chaser is designed by the Sierra Nevada Corporation, and resembles NASA’s space shuttles. When Boeing and SpaceX were chosen by NASA to design spacecraft to replace the fleet, the Dream Chaser was left behind. In November, however, it was announced that Sierra Nevada and Stratolaunch had teamed up to design a smaller version that the Roc plane could carry into orbit.

The massive wingspan of the Roc plane surpasses all other aircraft built, including the famous Hughes H-4 Spruce Goose. When completed, the world’s largest plane will resemble a much larger version of Virgin Galactic’s White Knight Two.

[Image: KGET 17 via Aviation Week]