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Scaled Composites reveals first flight of experimental Model 401

Northrop Grumman subsidiary Scaled Composites has unveiled and flown a new experimental aircraft called the Model 401 built as a demonstrator for low-cost manufacturing techniques and to provide research flight services.

The Mojave, California-based rapid prototyping specialist developed and flew the single-engined and single-seat Model 401 in secret, revealing the first flight milestone with a press release and an announcement on Facebook.

“We had a great flight and we are looking forward to the future test program,” Scaled Composites’ project engineer Aaron Cassebeer says in a Facebook post.

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The 3,630kg (8,000lb) maximum-weight aircraft, featuring a 3,045lb-thrust Pratt & Whitney JTD-15D-5D turbofan mounted atop the fuselage behind the cockpit, is capable of flying up to 30,000ft and Mach 0.6, Scaled Composites says.

The 11.6m (38ft) wingspan, resembling the wing planform of the General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc Avenger unmanned air vehicle, has a highly-swept leading edge with an straight inboard trailing edge and a swept outboard trailing edge.

The aircraft follows a long line of experimental types designed by Scaled Composites, a company founded led by maverick design Burt Rutan, who retired after selling the company to Northrop. In the last decade, Scaled Composites has unveiled several new research aircraft, including the BiPod and Firebird aircraft. But the company is also known for designing ground-breaking designs, such as SpaceShipOne, SpaceShipTwo, WhiteKnight, Proteus and Voyager.

The company is currently producing the world’s largest aircraft, Stratolaunch, with funding by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen.

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