The AN-255 was designed by Antonov in the 1980s, when Ukraine still belonged to the USSR, as part of the Soviet space program: It was the only plane large enough to transport the space shuttle Buran on its back. Flying its first mission, in December 1988, it later transported power plant generators, locomotives, and even enormous twin wind turbine blades, according to Jalopnik.
The Antonov AN-225 holds numerous aeronautical records, including for the heaviest plane, largest wingspan and for transporting the largest commercial cargo load (a 280-ton payload). It had become something of a tourist attraction, drawing aviation fans to Gostomel Airport, also known as Antonov International Airport, to see it take off and land.
The AN-225 was also occasionally drafted to provide humanitarian aid: After the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, it delivered relief supplies to the neighboring Dominican Republic, CNN reported. During the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic it brought medical supplies to affected regions.
On February 24, when Russia began its attack, the Mriya had been given orders to take off, but one of its engines had been dismantled for repairs, Ukroboronprom reported. Satellites detected multiple fires at the airport Sunday morning shortly after 11 a.m., including at the hangar where the Mriya was housed.
The extent of the damage to the AN-225 Mriya is still unknown. Antonov has not responded to a request for comment but, in its tweet, promised a “further official announcement.”