The world has received its first glimpse of a gigantic airplane that will serve as an airborne launch pad for putting satellites - and eventually people - into orbit.
The aircraft, which has a wingspan of 385 feet (117 metres) and will be powered by six 747-class engines, is currently being assembled at Mojave, California.
Dubbed the Roc, the megaplane is the brainchild Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, who is creating it under start-up firm Stratolaunch Systems.
Initially, the system is intended to deliver satellites weighing up to about 13,500lbs (6,124 kg) into orbits between 112 miles and 1,243 miles (180 km and 2000 km) above Earth.
The plane will climb to 30,000 feet and launch a rocket at high altitude, avoiding the huge fuel costs of launching from Earth.
In the news report, Scaled Composites president Kevin Mickey says the company has so far built 'roughly 200,000lbs of composite structure' for the vehicle.
A debut test flight is expected in about a year with launch operations beginning in 2018.