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The world’s largest airplane is up for sale for a whopping $400 million. Despite the staggering price tag, the substantial airplane, named the Stratolaunch, has only flown once, last October. The fee is said to include ownership of the airplane, as well as the intellectual property and facilities.
The Stratolaunch is the world’s largest airplane in terms of wingspan. The airplane stretches 385 feet wide, which makes it longer than a football field. The supersized plane is powered by six jet engines, which were salvaged from Boeing 747 aircraft.
Vulcan Inc., the privately held company controlled by the estate of late Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, is looking to sell the skybird for the hefty sum, reports CNBC. Following complications of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Allen passed away in October 2018.
The massive plane was in development for about eight years before its inaugural (and currently only) flight in April.
But the Stratolaunch is no oversized commercial airliner. Allen dreamt up the Stratolaunch for a far more out of this world reason: in hopes of creating a plane that can launch rockets from the air. That vision was partially realized when the Stratolaunch flew in April. During its first flight, the Stratolaunch flew for more than two hours and landed with success. The giant airplane is based in the Mojave Air and Space Port in California.
For the rockets the Stratolaunch will carry, Stratolaunch Systems has had various partnerships. One of its earliest partners was with Elon Musk’s SpaceX. Stratolaunch then switched to a contract with Orbital ATK, American aerospace manufacturer and defense industry company that operates as the aviation division of parent company Northrop Grumman, to fly the Pegasus XL rocket.
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In January, Stratolaunch threw out its plan to develop its own fleet of rockets. It also downsized and laid off many of its employees, but still plans to launch a small Northrop rocket in 2020.
A representative for Vulcan Inc told CNBC that “Stratolaunch remains operational. We will provide an update when there is news to share.”
However, Reuters reported last month that the company is in the process of closing operations, but the sale of Stratolaunch is being held up by an internal disagreement between CEO Jean Floyd and Paul Allen’s sister Jody Allen, the chair of Vulcan as well as the executor of his estate,
The outlet is reporting that a source has told them that Floyd seems to be gunning for Vulcan keep the Stratolaunch program going, while Jody Allen wants to sell the company outright.
Three space industry billionaires might be a good fit for Stratolaunch: Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson.
It is not known if Musk’s SpaceX or Bezos’ Blue Origin is looking into purchasing the $400 plane, but CNBC is reporting that the company has spoken to Branson about selling to his conglomerate, which may be the best final destination for Stratolaunch.
Branson’s Virgin Group owns three space companies: Virgin Galactic, The SpaceShip Company and Virgin Orbit. SpaceShip Company and Virgin Orbit were built using similar technology to that of Stratolaunch. Similarly, all three of his space companies have a similar heritage, they were all manufactured from designs by prototype aerospace manufacturer Scaled Composites.
It is unlikely that Branson would pay full price, given that in 2003 that he offered British Airways $8.30 to take airplanes that they planned to retire off its hands and fly them for Virgin Atlantic. CNBC is reporting that a source told them, Brandon told Vulcan he would by the Stratolaunch for $1.