Stratolaunch Systems has conducted the maiden flight of the world’s largest aircraft by wingspan over the Mojave Desert as it aims to provide affordable satellite launch services.

With a wingspan greater than the length of an American football field, the aircraft will serve as a flying launch pad for satellites.

The company noted that the aircraft will offer an affordable way to launch satellites.

During the test flight, the jet reached a maximum speed of 189mph and flew for 2.5 hours at altitudes of up to 17,000ft. The test pilots evaluated aircraft performance and handling qualities.

Testing exercises involved a variety of flight control manoeuvres to calibrate speed and test flight control systems.

The aircraft was put through simulated landing approach exercises at a max altitude of 15,000ft mean sea level.

Stratolaunch Systems CEO Jean Floyd said: “Today’s flight furthers our mission to provide a flexible alternative to ground-launched systems. We are incredibly proud of the Stratolaunch team, today’s flight crew, our partners at Northrup Grumman’s Scaled Composites and the Mojave Air and Space Port.”

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“Today’s flight furthers our mission to provide a flexible alternative to ground-launched systems.”

The reinforced centre wing of the twin-fuselage aircraft has the ability to support multiple launch vehicles, weighing up to a total of 500,000lb.

On its website, Stratolaunch stated that it aims to make access to orbit as routine as catching a commercial airline flight.

The firm also noted that its unique air-launch approach enables the delivery of payloads to multiple orbits and inclinations in a single flight.

Stratolaunch was founded by the late Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen in 2011.

Meanwhile, Richard Branson’s launch services firm Virgin Orbit plans to undertake the first launch of its LauncherOne service mid-this year.