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Gigantic Stratolaunch aircraft tests well in second flight

Charlotte Edwards, May 5, 2021 7:00PM The Sun

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The Stratolaunch Roc aircraft, a six-engine jet with the world's longest wingspan, completed its second test flight, Thursday, April 29, 2021 in Mojave, California. Picture: AP Photo/Matt Hartman. media_cameraThe Stratolaunch Roc aircraft, a six-engine jet with the world's longest wingspan, completed its second test flight, Thursday, April 29, 2021 in Mojave, California. Picture: AP Photo/Matt Hartman.

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Its first flight was two years ago, but Stratolaunch’s enormous Roc aeroplane has officially logged a flawless* second flight in the US. The world’s largest aircraft by wingspan*, it will one day carry spacecraft to be air-launched into orbit.

“Today’s flight, at first review, has appeared extremely successful,” said Zachary Krevor, Stratolaunch’s chief operating officer.

“We accomplished all test points as desired, we have not seen anything anomalous*, and we are very pleased with the condition of the aircraft upon landing.”

The Roc plane was tested over the Mojave Desert in California in the US, reaching a peak altitude* of 4.2 km.

Six engines kept it flying for three hours and 14 minutes before it touched down on an equally huge runway.

media_cameraKIDS NEWS: The Stratolaunch Roc aircraft, a six-engine jet with the world’s longest wingspan, comes to land after its successful test flight, Thursday, April 29, 2021 in Mojave, California. The test flight attracted a number of aviation enthusiasts. Picture: AP Photo/Matt Hartman.

The plane is designed to operate under a three-person crew which includes a pilot, co-pilot and flight engineer. While it looks like it has two cockpits, the pilot and co-pilot only sit on the right side of the plane.

The left nose is unpressurised and is said to contain flight data systems.

The carrier plane has a wingspan of 117 metres, making it almost twice the width of a Boeing 747.

The Roc plane is being designed to be an airborne space launch platform that will carry hypersonic flight rockets into low Earth orbit, including one day launching Stratolaunch’s fully reusable and autonomous* Talon-A hypersonic* research vehicles.

However, the Roc must pass more tests before it officially starts work as a carrier.

It has been two years since the aircraft’s maiden* flight. The Roc was initially developed by Microsoft co-founder Paul G. Allen, who died just months before it flew for the first time in April 2019. Allen intended to use it as a carrier aircraft for space launches, carrying satellite-laden rockets beneath the centre of the wing and releasing them at high altitude.

media_cameraThe Stratolaunch plane pictured during its maiden test flight in Mojave, California, April 13, 2019. Picture: AFP Photo/Stratolaunch.

Stratolaunch Roc fun facts

  • The Roc plane is the largest in the world in terms of wingspan.
  • Its wings span across 117 metres.
  • It is designed to launch rockets into space.
  • The plane is 72.5 metres long and 15.2 metres tall.
  • It has 6 engines.
  • It only requires a pilot, co-pilot and flight engineer for take off.
  • The plane has 28 wheels.
  • It made its first flight in April 2019.
  • Its second took place on April 29 2021 and lasted just over three hours.

GLOSSARY

  • flawless: without error or defects
  • wingspan: tip-to-tip wing measurement in an aeroplane, bird or other flying animal
  • anomalous: anything unexpected or abnormal
  • altitude: the height of an object or point from sea or ground level
  • autonomous: independent, self-operating
  • hypersonic: flights at speeds of at least Mach 5, or five times the speed of sound
  • maiden: first

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QUICK QUIZ

  1. Where did the test flight take place?
  2. What was the flight time?
  3. How many engines does the aircraft have?
  4. How long has it been since its maiden flight?
  5. Who was the aircraft’s initial developer?

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CLASSROOM ACTIVITIES
1. Wide Load
Think like an air traffic controller and all the logistics that would need to be considered for this especially wide aircraft to fly, even on test missions.

Factors to be considered BEFORE takeoff:

Factors to be considered TO takeoff:

Factors to be considered while IN the air:

Factors to be considered for LANDING:

Time: allow 25 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Design and Technologies, Critical and creative thinking

2. Extension
What else could this type of aeroplane be used for in the future?

What other testing do you think it may need to undertake before it’s approved for its intended purposes?

Time: allow 10 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: Design and Technologies, Critical and creative thinking

VCOP ACTIVITY
Adjectives
An adjective is a describing word. They are often found describing a noun. To start with, look at the words before the nouns.

Search for all the adjectives you can find in the article

Did you find any repeat adjectives or are they all different?

Extension:
Pick three of your favourite adjectives from the text and put them in your own sentences to show other ways to use them.

Have you used any in your writing?

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