The Debut of Stratolaunch, the World’s Biggest Plane, Heats Up California’s Race to Space

A Silicon Valley entrepreneur doubles down on wings for satellite hauls to outer space.

The corridor between earth and outer space becomes smaller and smaller everyday, and California leads the way. From SpaceX to Virgin Galactic, these state-based companies promise to bring us closer to the stars in a matter of years. Now, a Silicon Valley pioneer just created the world’s largest plane in the Mojave Desert … one that will help rocket satellites beyond our atmosphere.

How big is big? According to a recently published article by Jack Stewart for Wired, the “catamaran-like” aircraft boasts 28 wheels, six engines and a 385-foot wingspan, enough to carry “air launch vehicles” far enough for them to fire their own rockets and make it to orbit.

Called Stratolaunch, this impressive machine was created by Scaled Composites, a respected aerospace design shop who recently rolled the beast out of their desert hanger. The man behind the mission is Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, who founded Stratolaunch in 2011.

According to the Wired article, “Launching from a runway rather than a pad means more flexibility, as well as lower cost. Rocket launches have tight windows of time, because orbital engineers have to wait for the Earth to rotate to the right point to reach a desired position in space. A giant plane is only limited by the availability of giant runways, and can take off whenever it likes.”

But there is controversy … including some grumblings from SpaceX CEO Elon Musk on whether or not planes and wings are a viable and affordable path to space travel. Either way, the debut of this mega-plane is sure to continue the conversation and fuel the race to space here in California.

To read the entire Wired article, visit

Photos courtesy of Stratolaunch Systems Corp.