The world’s largest plane has taken to the skies to prove that having a 117-meter (385-foot) wingspan does not stop it from going the distance, after breaking yet another world record by flying for six hours straight. Stratolaunch’s Roc, a launch vehicle for hypersonic aircraft and currently the world’s largest plane, completed a six-hour flight over California's Mojave Desert before landing back at the same airport, which is longer than it has ever managed in its previous flights.
Powered by six engines and essentially the size of two commercial planes attached at one wing, Roc is a test bed that will be used for launching Stratolaunch’s actual cutting-edge technology, the Talon hypersonic vehicle. Used to test hypersonic conditions in real scenarios, the Talon will supposedly be used for the design of the next generation of hypersonic aircraft and missiles.
This is now the ninth flight of Roc (but the first since October 2022), which precede Talon-A launch tests that may go ahead later this year.
"The thorough evaluation of release conditions will provide data to reduce risks and ensure a clean and safe release of Talon-A during future tests," said CEO and President Zachary Krevor in a statement to Space.com.
"We are excited for what’s ahead this year as we bring our hypersonic flight test service online for our customers and the nation."
While the Antonov-225 “Mriya”, which tragically perished in the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine, was technically the largest aircraft ever built (using the plane’s overall dimensions, including weight and fuselage length), Roc – named after the legendary bird of prey in Middle Eastern mythology – absolutely demolishes all others when it comes to wingspan. Roc has a wingspan of 117 meters, which is the length of a football pitch, so it really is remarkable that this plane can even fly.