The Stratolaunch aircraft just inched one step closer to “providing convenient, reliable, and routine access to low Earth orbit.” The team announced that the plane completed its first round of engine tests, successfully firing up all six engines.
The milestone was conducted in a three-phase process. Phase one was a “dry motor” trial, where the engine was charged using an auxiliary power unit. The “wet motor” phase followed, where the team added fuel. Rounding phase three, each engine was started individually and was left idle.
According to the Stratolaunch press release, all six engines passed and operated as expected.
This news follows the aircraft’s impressive exit from its hanger back in May. The design made quite a statement, weighing in at 500,000 pounds and boasting a 385-foot wingspan. “The aircraft is 238 ft. from nose to tail and stands 50 ft. tall from the ground to the top of the vertical tail,” according to Stratolaunch.
The entire design is built to handle a maximum takeoff weight of 1,300,000 pounds, allowing for up to 550,000 pounds of payload.
To prepare for firing up all six engines, the fire detection, electrical, and pneumatic systems were all effectively validated. Moving forward, the engines will be cranked to higher power levels and varying configurations.
In addition to engine tests, the team also completed fuel testing, ensuring the six fuel tanks followed proper operation and were appropriately sealed. Currently, the team began flight control system trials.
“So far we have exercised the full limits of motion and rate of deflection of control surfaces on the wing and stabilizers,” according to Stratolaunch.
As these tests continue, the Stratolaunch is looking to make its first flight as early as 2019.
Filed Under: Aerospace + defense