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MIT Technology Review

The world’s biggest airplane has taken its first flight

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The plan is for the Stratolaunch plane to eventually act as a flying launch pad for satellites, which could potentially be a less expensive way than rockets to send objects into space.

The test: The twin-fuselage plane has six engines and was made from two used Boeing jetliners. It flew over the Mojave Desert in California for two and a half hours during its maiden flight on Saturday, April 13. It flew at a maximum speed of about 189 miles per hour at about 15,000 feet above the ground, according to Stratolaunch

The vital statistic: The plane’s 385-foot (117-meter) wingspan is wider than a football field, making it the longest in the world. You can watch a clip of the flight here.

The grand plan: Eventually, the hope is that the plane will be able to fly up to about 35,000 feet before it releases satellites into orbit. Stratolaunch believes this will be more efficient than the usual approach of launching rockets from the ground.

Correction: We originally said the plane will fly two or three times higher than commercial jets before releasing satellites into orbit. In fact, it will fly up to about 35,000 feet, which is within the range of commercial aircraft.

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