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World's Largest Plane Takes Flight Over The Weekend

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

So over the weekend, we saw a record-breaking launch that will hopefully change the way we send satellites into space.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

The Stratolaunch took its first flight on Saturday. It is a six-engine plane with a wingspan of 385 feet. Three-hundred-eighty-five feet from one wing tip to the other, which makes it the world's largest plane if you measure it by wingspan. To put that in perspective, that is considerably wider than the length of a football field.

EVAN THOMAS: It was overall fantastic. I honestly could not have hoped for more on a first flight, especially of an airplane of this complexity.

INSKEEP: Evan Thomas is the pilot from Saturday's test flight in California's Mojave Desert - I guess we should say over the desert. He was speaking after the launch.

GREENE: Eventually, Stratolaunch hopes to use this oversized wingspan as a launching pad from 35,000 feet, at which point, the rockets carrying commercial satellites would take off into orbit. Now, while this weekend's test flight did not carry any rockets, it did carry a lot of weight for the company.

INSKEEP: The flight took place without Paul Allen, the billionaire co-founder of Microsoft and Stratolaunch's founder. He died in October before getting the chance to witness this moment.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JEAN FLOYD: I'd never imagined the experience without Paul standing next to me. And even though he wasn't there today as the plane lifted gracefully from the runway, I did whisper a thank you to Paul for allowing me to be part of this remarkable achievement.

GREENE: That was Stratolaunch CEO Jean Floyd. The company says it wants to begin launching rockets from the Stratolaunch as early as next year.

(SOUNDBITE OF STELLARDRONE'S "SATELLITE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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