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Stratolaunch, the gargantuan airplane, finally takes flight a second time

The world's largest airplane by wingspan took to the skies once again on Thursday.

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Amanda Kooser
Freelance writer Amanda C. Kooser covers gadgets and tech news with a twist for CNET. When not wallowing in weird gear and iPad apps for cats, she can be found tinkering with her 1956 DeSoto.
Amanda Kooser
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The Stratolaunch airplane ahead of its second test flight on April 29, 2021.

Stratolaunch

I watch the Stratolaunch carrier aircraft with the same level of wonder I reserve for bumblebees. They're both defiantly large things that are able to fly anyway.

On Thursday, Stratolaunch reached the skies for its second test flight, two years after its first voyage into the air. Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen dreamed up the plane but didn't live to see its first test flight in 2019. 

The Stratolaunch carrier is powered by six engines and has a wingspan of 385 feet (117 meters), longer than an American football field.

"We are airborne!" the company tweeted along with a video of the plane named Roc lifting off the runway at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California.

Stratolaunch describes the carrier aircraft as "a revolutionary launchpad for hypersonic and aerospace vehicles." It's designed to carry launch vehicles that can travel at hypersonic speeds, far exceeding the speed of sound. The reusable Talon-A vehicle under development could reach Mach 6. 

The company tweeted a look at the mega-airplane performing flight test maneuvers.

The carrier aircraft was originally meant to help launch payloads into orbit. The company is currently focused on hypersonic testing and research but still says it intends make access to space "convenient, affordable and routine." It lists a reusable space plane called Black Ice among the vehicles in development.

The grander plans start with proving the capabilities of the colossal carrier. The second test flight seems to be a move in the right direction.