Mojave Moment: Keep Watching the Skies

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

As you can see, it rained in Mojave today for the first time since maybe May.

Not much came down, but it’s a sign that the rainy season has come to the High Desert along with wintery weather. The winds are howling right now and the temperature is expected to drop to 30 F (-1 C) on Sunday evening.

Well, that’s all very interesting. But, why are you tell us this?

That’s a good question. Earlier this week, Stratolaunch took its massive twin fuselage aircraft out of its hangar at the Mojave Air and Space Port to prepare for upcoming flight tests. And therein lies the connection to weather.

Stratolaunch carrier aircraft on runway 12-30 at the Mojave Air and Space Port following a taxi test. (Credit: Kenneth Brown)

Back in December 2018, Stratolaunch was prepared to make its maiden flight. Taking off from Mojave’s runway was not a problem so long as the winds stayed sufficiently calm on the test day. (Not always a sure thing, as one look at the thousands of wind turbines west of town makes abundantly clear.)

The real problem they had was with the emergency landing site, which was the dry lakebed at Edwards Air Force Base. Or, more accurate, the wet lakebed at Edwards Air Force Base. The fall rains had rendered it unsuitable for anything other than birds to land on.

Edwards does have a concrete, all-weather runway, but word was the U.S. Air Force didn’t want Stratolaunch’s massive plane landing on it in an emergency.

Stratolaunch flies (Credit: Stratolaunch)

So, Stratolaunch sat in its hangar for months, all buttoned with nowhere to go until the sun and warmer temperatures did their thing. The giant aircraft didn’t take off on its first — and thus far, only — flight test until April 13, 2019.

Based on recent activity over at the hangar and the turn in the weather, I would expect to see the giant airplane — known by such colorful nicknames as the Roc, Carbon Goose, StratoGoose, Stratosaurus Rex and Birdzilla — take to the skies again soon.

The airplane is a sight to see as roars down runway 12-30, kicking up a massive cloud of dust as it nears takeoff speed. The scale of that aircraft is just jaw dropping. It should be really fun to see it fly again.