Wednesday, April 10, 2024

Stratolaunch completes first powered flight of the Talon-A test vehicle

Stratolaunch, LLC has successfully completed the first powered flight of the Talon-A test vehicle, TA-1. This first flight represents a major milestone in the development of the country’s first privately funded, reusable hypersonic test capability.

The primary objectives for the flight test have been accomplished, including the safe air-launch release of the TA-1 vehicle, engine ignition, sustained climb in altitude, and a controlled water landing.

The Talon-A-1 vehicle was launched from the Roc carrier aircraft off the coast of California. It successfully flew at a speed close to Mach 5 before being intentionally plunged into the ocean. The vehicle’s earlier test in May 2023 (TA-0) was only able to perform gliding maneuvers and send telemetry data.

Stratolaunch aims to develop the first reusable hypersonic test capability in the U.S. Hypersonic flights exceed Mach 5 and can revolutionize military, commercial, and scientific applications.

“Today was a great day for the Stratolaunch team. I am extremely proud of their perseverance in reaching this point. The successful outcome of the test is a direct result of the team’s technical prowess and professionalism,” Zachary Krevor, the CEO of Stratolaunch, said in a statement.

“While I can’t share the specific altitude and speed TA-1 reached due to proprietary agreements with our customers, we are pleased to share that in addition to meeting all primary and customer objectives of the flight, we reached high supersonic speeds approaching Mach 5 and collected a great amount of data at an incredible value to our customers,” said Dr. Krevor. “Our goal with this flight was to continue our risk reduction approach for TA-2’s first reusable flight and be steadfast in our commitment to delivering maximum value to our customers. We are excited to review the data from today’s test and use it as we plan our next steps toward TA-2’s first flight later this year.”

Stratolaunch is making progress on the manufacturing of TA-3, the second fully reusable vehicle in that Talon-A product line. The company is also beginning modifications to its additional launch platform, the Spirit of Mojave, a modified Boeing 747-400.

The Talon-A-1 sounds like an impressive rocket-powered vehicle that can carry some heavy payloads. It’s designed to be air-launched from an even larger aircraft called the Roc, which can carry multiple Talons at once and release them at different altitudes and locations. The TA-1 was powered by Ursa Major’s Hadley engine, which is designed to meet the United States’s commercial and national security space needs.

Ursa Major designed, built, and tested Hadley in under ten years. The engine’s capabilities will undoubtedly help the U.S. Defense Department develop new mission solutions more quickly while enhancing important performance metrics like speed, range, and payload.

Stratolaunch has secured contracts with the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory and the Navy’s Multiservice Advanced Capability Test Bed program. They will be subcontracting to Leidos, a technology company based in Virginia. Stratolaunch plans to continue testing the Talon-A-1 and is also working on developing a larger hypersonic vehicle, the Talon-Z, that can reach speeds of up to Mach 10.