A revolutionary carrier aircraft known as Roc sits at the end of runway 30 at the Mojave Air and Spaceport. For months, Stratolaunch Systems has been teasing the public with test after test. But now, the world’s biggest-ever plane will finally try to take off for the very first time. And once it finally manages to do so, it will make history.
Moment of truth
As the plane gains speed down the runway, its wings stretch as wide as an American football field. For the maiden voyage to be a success, though, Roc — named after a humongous mythological eagle — needs at least 12,000 feet of tarmac to build up enough power to lift off. It's no mean feat...
A crowd forms
Spectators and photographers gather to watch as Roc makes its way toward the end of the track. It's a nail-biting moment. Will Roc make it? Suddenly, the giant plane lifts up off the ground and into the sky, and the crowd erupts. The largest aircraft in the world has just taken flight before their eyes. But what will be the outcome of this historic takeoff?
And where did this ambitious idea even come from? Back in 2010, behind closed doors, the Stratolaunch Systems project was born. A year later, founding members Paul Allen – who also co-created Microsoft, by the way – and Burt Rutan issued a public announcement about their new venture. The duo wanted to develop a new way of air-launching rockets into orbit. What exactly does that mean, though?
The Seattle-based Stratolaunch operation hoped to amass an array of components that would send a ship into orbit. The plan was actually to use an aircraft carrier to transport a launch vehicle to a high altitude – and then the launch vehicle would be blasted into space.