Stratolaunch aircraft completes first phase of engine testing
Stratolaunch Systems has concluded the first phase of engine testing of its giant aircraft named after the company at its Mojave Air and Space Port facility in the US.
During the test, the Stratolaunch aircraft’s six Pratt and Whitney turbofan engines were switched on for the first time.
The testing included three phases, first of which was ‘dry motor,’ where the company used an auxiliary power unit to charge the engine.
The second phase, ‘wet motor’, saw the introduction of fuel. The engines were started one at a time and allowed to idle in the final phase of the test.
According to Stratolaunch, all the six engines operated as expected throughout the test.
The testing of fuel and all the six fuel tanks of the aircraft were also conducted to ensure proper operation.
Stratolaunch has further commenced the testing of the plane's flight control system.
Stratolaunch Systems CEO Jean Floyd said: “Over the next few months, we will continue to test the aircraft’s engines at higher power levels and varying configurations, culminating to the start of taxi tests.
“As we work toward that milestone, we look forward to sharing additional details on the aircraft’s journey.”
The Stratolaunch aircraft, which underwent the aircraft fuelling tests in May, is the world’s largest plane due to its 385ft-long wingspan.
It measures 238ft from nose to tail, and stands 50ft tall from the ground to the top of the vertical tail.
The aircraft is designed to provide easy and convenient access to the low Earth orbit (LEO), while it is capable of carrying payloads up to around 550,000lbs.
Stratolaunch is initially planning to launch a single Orbital ATK Pegasus XL vehicle with the ability to launch up to three Pegasus vehicles in a single mission.
Image: Stratolaunch aircraft. Photo: courtesy of Dylan Schwartz via Stratolaunch Systems Corp.