LOS ANGELES -- The world's largest aircraft by wingspan has successfully completed its first flight, the U.S. space transportation company behind it said Saturday.
The plane built by Stratolaunch has two fuselages and a wingspan the length of an American football field. It flew for 21/2 hours over California's Mojave Desert.
"What a fantastic first flight," Stratolaunch's chief executive Jean Floyd said in a statement. "Today's flight furthers our mission to provide a flexible alternative to ground launched systems."
Stratolaunch was established in 2011 by late Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen. It aims to make access to orbit more affordable and accessible by launching satellites into space from aircraft, rather than from the ground.
On Saturday its aircraft took off from the Mojave Air and Space Port, about 93 miles north of Los Angeles. It flew at altitudes up to 3 miles and performed numerous maneuvers including a simulated landing approach.
"We all know Paul would have been proud to witness today's historic achievement. The aircraft is a remarkable engineering achievement and we congratulate everyone involved," said the late billionaire's sister Jody Allen, who is also the chair of his philanthropic trust.
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