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.”

“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.