Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen’s entry into the commercial space race has been revealed.
Allen posted a picture of a plane nicknamed the “Roc” on Twitter, showing an extremely unusual and enormous plane that he hopes will eventually launch rockets into space.
The Roc has six engines, two fuselages, 28 wheels and is built by Allen’s company Stratolaunch Systems.
The plane has a wingspan of more than 117 meters, the longest ever built, and weighs more than 227,000 kilograms. To put the wingspan into perspective, it is longer than an official soccer pitch, which measure between 100 and 110 meters.
The aircraft is 72.5 meters from nose to tail and stands 15.2 meters tall from the ground to the top of the tail.
In his tweet, Allen said the plane was being taken out of its hangar for fuel testing. Next will come engine testing and taxi testing.
“Over the coming weeks and months, we’ll be actively conducting ground and flightline testing at the Mojave Air and Space Port,” Stratolaunch Systems CEO Jean Floyd said. “This is a first-of-its-kind aircraft, so we’re going to be diligent throughout testing and continue to prioritize the safety of our pilots, crew and staff.”
The plane’s maximum takeoff weight can be up to 589,000 kilograms. The company says the plane will first launch an Orbital ATK Pegasus XL rocket, but that it will be capable of launching up to three rockets in one flight.