Apr 13, 2019

World's largest aircraft successfully completes first flight

The twin-fuselage, 6-engined plane — the world's largest aircraft by wingspan — took flight on its maiden voyage Saturday morning from Mojave Air and Space Port in Mojave, California.

Details: Built by rocket launch company Stratolaunch Systems Corporation, the aircraft is designed to fly to an altitude of 35,000 feet and launch rockets and satellites into orbit from the air. Per Axios' Miriam Kramer, this will theoretically provide a more flexible way of getting payloads to space without reliance on a fixed launch site.

  • "Whatever the payload, whatever the orbit, getting your satellite into space will soon be as easy as booking an airline flight," said Stratolaunch CEO Jean Floyd in 2018.
  • The company has had some serious setbacks in recent years, including the death of its founder Paul Allen in 2018 and the cancellation of its plan to develop its own rockets.
  • Stratolaunch already has one known customer, Northrop Grumman, which plans to use the plane to send its Pegasus XL rocket into space.

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Judge rules against Trump policy limiting public comment on energy leasing

Photo: Joe Amon/The Denver Post via Getty Images

A federal judge on Thursday overturned a 2018 Trump administration directive that sought to speed up energy leases on public land by limiting the amount of time the public could comment.

Why it matters: U.S. Chief Magistrate Judge Ronald Bush's decision voids almost a million acres of leases in the West, according to The Washington Post. It's a victory for environmentalists, who tried to block the change as part of an effort to protect the habitat of the at-risk greater sage grouse.

  • The ruling invalidated five oil and gas leases in Nevada, Utah, and Wyoming, and affected 104,688 square miles of greater sage-grouse habitat, per The Associated Press.
  • Leases in greater sage-grouse habitat will return to allowing 30 days of public comment and administrative protest.

The big picture: From Axios' Amy Harder, this is the latest in a long and convoluted list of regulatory rollbacks the Trump administration is pursuing on environmental rules that courts are, more often than not, rebutting. With Congress gridlocked on these matters, expect the courts to be the default way Trump's agenda faces checks (unless, of course, a Democrat wins the White House this November).

Your best defense against coronavirus

Photo: Adrian Greeman/Construction Photography/Avalon/Getty Images

Washing your hands is the best way to protect against the novel coronavirus, according to doctors and health officials, as the virus continues to spread around the globe.

Why it matters: Frequent hand washing can stop germs from spreading in a community, a known preventative for COVID-19 and influenza.

Major League Soccer embarks on its 25th season

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

As Major League Soccer begins its 25th season, the league is financially stable and surging in popularity, and its 26 teams have gorgeous facilities and rapidly increasing valuations.

  • It also continues to expand, with David Beckham's Inter Miami and Nashville SC set to debut this season as the 25th and 26th teams. Plans are in place to reach 30 franchises by 2022 — triple the number from 2004.
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