The first flight of Stratolaunch, a project of Scaled Composites, founded by the legendary Burt Rutan, lasted 2 hours and 30 minutes and reached 17,000 feet (5,180 meters). The company aims to make access to orbit more affordable and accessible by launching satellites into space from aircraft, rather than from the ground.
"What a fantastic first flight", Stratolaunch Chief Executive Officer Jean Floyd said.
With the Stratolaunch, an aircraft that transports its artifacts between its two fuselages, the great advantage is its huge capacity of external transport.
Regarding initial results from Saturday's test flight, Stratolaunch said the plane performed a variety of flight control maneuvers to calibrate speed and test flight control systems, including roll doublets, yawing maneuvers, pushovers and pull-ups, and steady heading side slips.
It has been billed by the company as making satellite deployment as "easy as booking an airline flight".
Stratolaunch has a wingspan of 386 feet (118 m) and is 26 feet (8 m) long. "It's so huge, it seems like it shouldn't be able to fly", Jack Beyer, an aerospace and launch photographer for NASASpaceFlight.com, told CNN on Thursday.
"People are interested in the first flight of Stratolaunch because they want to see the future", Beyer said.
Created to send humans into space at a fraction of the cost of rockets, the white airplane called Roc took off shortly before 7 a.m.
Stratolaunch's objective is to make satellite launches easy and cheap. It is powered by six engines on a twin fuselage. The plane then will land safety back at Mojave, while the rocket carries the satellite into an orbit ranging from about 300 miles to 1,200 miles above Earth. The American business magnate, who co-founded Microsoft along with Bill Gates in 1975, died of cancer in October previous year at the age of 65. The event was supported by the Stratolaunch team who were present on the grounds to celebrate the aircraft's successful first flight.
The test flight on Saturday enabled the Stratolaunch test team to conduct standard aircraft testing exercises.