Stratolaunch, the company founded by Microsoft Co-Founder Paul Allen, tested its rocket-carrying airplane for the first time today.

The flight itself was smooth, which is exactly what you want a first flight to be. During the first phase of the flight, Stratolaunch tested the airplane’s handling qualities. “It flew very much like we had simulated and like we predicted,” he said. According to Stratolaunch, the plane’s systems “ran like a watch” and that the aircraft landed “on the mark” after a few low passes.

Evan Thomas, Test Pilot-Stratolaunch

The Stratolaunch is a 500,000-pound plane, with a wingspan of 358 feet. The record was previously held by the Hughes H-4 Hercules seaplane, with a wingspan of 320 feet. The wingspan is so long, it is almost 1.5 times longer than the Airbus A380, currently the largest passenger aircraft, or second largest aircraft in the world. The huge 6-engine aircraft had its maiden voyage over the Mojave Desert in California, at 10AM E.T.

Comparison of large wingspan aircraft

Source: Aeronef

The Stratolaunch is a unique vehicle. It is not designed to carry passengers, nor does it have a cargo hold. In fact, the aircraft is designed to carry rockets. The aircraft is designed to carry rockets to a height above 30,000 feet and drop them before their engines ignite. This launch system is meant to be a more cost economic way of launching satellites, hoping to rival SpaceX’s reusable launch vehicles.

The aircraft however, was built by a company called Scaled Composites. The official name of the aircraft is actually “Scaled Composites Stratolaunch.”

The company has already been contracted by Northrop Grumman, to launch the Pegasus XL rocket.

The CEO of Stratolaunch mentioned the late Paul Allen numerous times, during the press call.

Without a doubt, he would have been exceptionally proud to see his aircraft take flight. Even though he wasn’t there today, I did whisper a ‘thank you.’

Jean Floyd, CEO-Stratolaunch

Stratolaunch did not answer questions, or mention the future of the aircraft during the press call. A few months ago, Stratolaunch had also let go of around 50 employees, cancellong the development efforts of their own rockets.

Cover Image Source: Stratolaunch Systems

Cover Video Source: Stratolaunch Systems

Source: The Verge