Stratolaunch’s gigantic twin-bodied plane takes its first flight



Stratolaunch’s gigantic twin-bodied plane takes its first flight

Stratolaunch’s gigantic twin-bodied plane takes its first flight
The twin-hulled, six-engine Stratolaunch airplane took off Saturday from the Mojave Air and Space Port and spent more than two hours in the sky. (Stratolaunch Systems)

The Stratolaunch twin-hulled airplane, its wings stretching wider than a football field, took its first flight Saturday morning and spent more than two hours soaring above California’s Mojave Desert.

In taking off from the Mojave Air and Space Port, the plane brought closer to reality the dream of launching satellites from the air. The idea is that the aircraft — which has conjoined-twin fuselages and is powered by six Boeing 747 engines — would eventually hoist a rocket carrying a satellite to a higher altitude before releasing it to blast into space.

“For a first flight, it was spot on,” test pilot Evan Thomas told reporters on a conference call not long after the plane landed back in Mojave. “For the most part, the airplane flew as predicted …. Systems on the airplane ran like a watch.”

Thomas said “a few little things” cropped up, but he did not specify what they were.

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The plane took off at 6:58 a.m. and flew for 2½ hours, reaching a top speed of 189 miles per hour and a maximum altitude of 17,000 feet, Stratolaunch Systems Corp. said.

When Stratolaunch founder Paul Allen died last October, that led to speculation about the company’s future.

“It’s never been a market-driven company,” Chad Anderson, chief executive of Space Angels, a global network for early-stage space industry investors, said this year. “It’s been a passion project of a really wealthy individual. And now that individual is gone.”

Allen, a Microsoft Corp. co-founder, was not the only one pursuing this approach to commercial spaceflight.

In November, Richard Branson’s small-satellite launch firm Virgin Orbit flew its modified Boeing 747 with a rocket attached beneath one of its wings for the first time, marking a step toward its first test launch. The Long Beach company’s goal is to send small satellites into orbit via rockets released from the plane’s wing mid flight.

Seattle-based Stratolaunch has pared back its plans since Allen’s death. In January it said it would cease development of a rocket engine and two planned satellite-launching rockets as well as a rocket-powered plane that could take a crew to space.

Stratolaunch described that retrenchment, which reportedly included dozens of layoffs, as “streamlining operations.” It said that would enable it to focus on conducting a first test flight of its massive satellite-launching plane — a goal it achieved Saturday — and on conducting a test launch of a Pegasus XL rocket from the plane.

At 385 feet wide, the Stratolaunch plane’s wingspan is bigger than that of any other aircraft. The plane’s twin fuselages — which make the craft sort of the airplane equivalent of a catamaran — are 238 feet long.

The previous wingspan leader was Howard Hughes’ World War II-era eight-engine H-4 Hercules flying boat, nicknamed the Spruce Goose. Surviving in an aviation museum in Oregon, it has an approximately 320-foot wingspan. Its fuselage is just under 219 feet long.

Although Stratolaunch calls its aircraft the world’s largest, other airplanes exceed it in length from nose to tail. They include the six-engine Antonov AN 225 cargo plane, which is 275.5 feet long, and the Boeing 747-8, which is just over 250 feet long.

The Associated Press was used in compiling this report.

X-Marine Kills 12 At California Bar Including County Deputy



Thousand Oaks assailant ‘just pulled out a gun and shot my friend,’ witness says

A witness said early Thursday that the gunman in the Thousand Oaks shooting was dressed in black when he entered the Borderline Bar & Grill around 11:20 p.m.
A witness said early Thursday that the gunman in the Thousand Oaks shooting was dressed in black when he entered the Borderline Bar & Grill around 11:20 p.m.

Holden Harrah, 21, was among the hundreds inside listening to music Wednesday night as a part of a college night event.

He said he looked over at the front door and saw the man walk in wearing a black hat, glasses and a black shirt. He had a beard, Harrah said.

“He just pulled out a gun and shot my friend that was working the front desk,” he said.

The first couple of shots, Harrah said, his voice wavering, hit his friend and everyone dropped to the floor immediately. Harrah said he ran out a side door.

“I heard more gunshots behind me. I was freaking out,” he said.

The suspect in the shooting that killed 12 people, Ian David Long, was known to neighbors in his Newbury Park neighborhood as a troubled ex-Marine who appeared to have serious mental health problems.

Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean said officials discussed whether Long suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD.

His said his department had had several interactions with Long, including a visit to his home in April for a complaint of disturbing the peace. Deputies at the time said Long was irate and acting irrationally, Dean said. They called in mental health professionals to evaluate him, and they concluded he did not need to be taken into custody.

Long was the victim of a battery at a different Thousand Oaks bar in January 2015, Dean said.

Neighbor Richard Berge, 77, said Long was known to kick in the walls of the home he lived in with his mother.

“She’s a very sweet woman, but she had a lot of problems with the son,” Berge said. “I just know he tore the house up.”

Tom Hanson, 70, also lived near the Longs.

Earlier this year, sometime in April, Hanson called police when he overheard Ian Long one morning tearing the house apart. Hanson was worried that Long would hurt himself.

“I am not surprised, but I’m shocked,” Hanson said.

According to the U.S. Marines, Long served between 2008 and 2013 and was a machine gunner. He was stationed in Afghanistan from 2010-11.

He received standard military honors including the Navy Unit Commendation, the Navy Meritorious Unit Commendation, Combat Action Ribbon and Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal.

Police initially learned of the rampage from numerous 911 calls. The first law enforcement personnel arrived on scene at 11:22 p.m., and made entry four minutes later, officials said.

Sheriff’s Sgt. Ron Helus and a California Highway Patrol officer were met with gunfire, according to Dean. Helus was shot several times and died at a hospital early Thursday morning, he said.

Helus, a 29-year veteran of the department, was planning to retire next year, and Dean said he died “a hero.” He is survived by a son and his wife, whom he called before entering the bar, the sheriff said.

About 15 minutes after that initial encounter, a second group of law enforcement personnel arrived and entered the bar, the sheriff said; by then, no gunfire could be heard.

People were hiding the bar’s restrooms and in its attic, Dean said.

The suspect was found down with a gunshot wound when the officers entered the building, the sheriff said.

15 People Shot At Los Angeles Party


Three dead, dozen wounded in shooting at Los Angeles party

 Three people were killed and a dozen wounded when gunfire erupted at a Los Angeles party overnight, a police spokesman said on Saturday.

The wounded were transported to hospitals, and two or three were in critical condition, the spokesman at the Los Angeles Police Department’s Southwest Division said. One suspect may be in custody, he said.

A party was under way when “somebody came in there and started shooting a bunch of people,” the spokesman said. He could provide no further details.

The Los Angeles Times said the shooting took place in the city’s West Adams neighborhood.

(Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Leslie Adler