Largest ‘All Composite’ Plane in History Completes Maiden Flight

You hear the recent news about the Roc?

(Courtesy of Creative Commons)

No, not that one (anyhow, he’s the ROCK).

Not that one either (and Alcatraz is also a “Rock”).

And not that one, though that mythological bird IS a “Roc” – and it’s close.  Because THIS is the Roc that made news…

(Image Courtesy of Stratolaunch)

…the one with two fuselages, six engines, and the world’s widest wingspan (385 feet, which for purposes of comparison, is a football field – plus 85 feet), which completed its maiden flight recently.

The world’s largest “all-composite” airplane.  That means it’s made from materials like carbon fiber, which are lighter and stronger than metal.  “Lighter and stronger” is important too, because the Roc is built to fly more than a half million pounds-worth of rockets and satellites up to 35,000 feet.  Once up there, the rockets are released, to launch those satellites into outer space.

Here’s what’s good about that, according to NASA:  launching satellites from that height, means you don’t need an expensive (and massive) first-stage rocket booster (the Roc does that work) —  you don’t have to worry about trying to land that booster somewhere for reuse (the Roc just flies back down and lands like any other airplane) – you don’t need costly rocket fuel (the Roc uses regular jet fuel, in regular jet engines) – you don’t have to depend on good weather down on the ground, or on one of a handful of rocket launching sites (the Roc gets the rockets above everyday weather, and can fly where it’s needed).

And all that, high up in the sky – comes right out of the ground.  Those carbon-fiber materials that the Roc is made of – they are made of polyacrylonitrile (or if you want something easier to remember, PAN) – and the recipe for PAN starts with the petrochemical propylene, which is refined from petroleum.  Also refined from petroleum?  Jet fuel, which is what gets the Roc up to 35,000 feet, and back down again.

So next time you look, up in the sky, and ask:  “Is it a bird?  Is it a plane?”  Well, it might just be – a Roc.

Click here to read more about what’s new, what’s next and what it means for you.

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