Stratolaunch: World’S Largest Aircraft Passed Engine Tests and Osiris-Rex Spacecraft Swings (Download PDF)


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Private spaceflight company Stratolaunch tested out all 6 turbofan engines on aircraft for the first time. Engines were filled with fuel and allowed to idle one at a time at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California.

Stratolaunch: World’s Largest Aircraft Passed Engine Tests

Stratolaunch: World’s Largest Aircraft Passed Engine Tests

Stratolaunch: World’s Largest Aircraft Passed Engine Tests

Details on The Plane

  • World’s largest aircraft with two fuselages and wingspan measuring 118 m- wider than a football field.

  • Weighs 227, 000 kg when empty and unfueled.

  • Will have a maximum takeoff weight of 1.3 million pounds.

  • Fitted with six 747 turbofan engines.

  • Carry nearly 250, 000 kg between the two fuselages and hold more than 113, 000 kg of fuel.

  • Has operational range of approximately 2, 000 nautical miles

Launch Platform for Rockets

  • Stratolaunch plane is designed for runway-style takeoff as a launch platform for carrying rockets, which attach underneath the wing connecting the two fuselages.

  • Normally at cruising altitude of 11, 000 metres, it will detach rockets carrying small satellites into low-Earth orbit.

  • Capable of delivering payloads to multiple orbits and inclinations in a single mission.

  • This will be cheaper than launching the rocket directly from Earth, as the usual traditional launch vehicles cannot be reused.

Starting Small

  • Stratolaunch signed a deal last year to launch Orbital ATK’s Pegasus XL rocket.

  • Designed to launch from the air, Pegasus is a small rocket, capable of launching satellites weighing up to 1, 000 pounds from a much smaller plane than the Stratolaunch one.

NASA’s Osiris-Rex Spacecraft Swings by Earth Towards Asteroid Bennu

  • NASA’s asteroid observation spacecraft Osiris-Rex successfully swung by Earth putting it on desired trajectory towards near earth asteroid Bennu using Earth’s gravity.

  • Passed within 17, 237 km from Earth above Antarctica.

  • Osiris-Rex’s science instruments were also tested by scanning Earth and moon for its operations at Bennu.

What is OSIRIS-Rex?

  • The OSIRIS-REx (Origins, Spectral Interpretation, Resource Identification, Security, and Regolith Explorer) was launched in September 2016 for studying 101955 Bennu, a carbonaceous asteroid.

  • NASA’s first asteroid sampling mission with Japan already visiting an asteroid.

OSIRIS-Rex Mission

  • Spacecraft reaches small, round asteroid in 2018 returning to Earth some of its gravels by 2023.

  • Intends to bring back 2 ounces of dust using robotic arm without landing just by hovering using nitrogen gas thruster.

101955 Bennu

  • Near-Earth carbonaceous asteroid size of a small mountain in the Apollo group.

  • Discovered in September 1999 by the LINEAR Project.

  • Apollo asteroids are a group of asteroids near Earth named after 1862 Apollo.

  • They are Earth crossing asteroids with orbital semi-major axis greater than that of the Earth ( > 1 AU) but perihelion distances less than the Earth’s aphelion distance.

Significance of Mission

  • Bennu asteroid might provide clues to origin of solar system and life

  • It might point to the source of water and organic molecules found on Earth.

  • Asteroids are believed to be the source of metals and minerals in future- with many companies eying extra-terrestrial mining operations.

- Published/Last Modified on: November 13, 2017


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