Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Stratolaunch to develop aerial target for U.S. hypersonic missile testing

Stratolaunch has received a contract from the U.S. Missile Defense Agency to supply a target that mimics certain hypersonic threats to support the development of new defensive capabilities. The company plans to augment existing Department of Defense flight test resources through affordable, commercially contracted, rapid-turnaround hypersonic flight testing for the Department of Defense and its prime contractor partners.

Stratolaunch announced its deal with Missile Defense Agency (MDA) yesterday but provided only limited details about the expected work.

The DoD has been focused on hypersonic weapons for a long time now. These weapons present significant challenges for defenders in terms of detecting and tracking incoming threats, as well as attempting to intercept them.

“We’re excited to provide MDA with a threat-representative and threat-replicating target that allows them to understand how to engage and intercept hypersonic threats,” said Dr. Daniel Millman, Chief Technology Officer of Stratolaunch.

The Stratolaunch team is preparing to complete its next set of Roc carrier aircraft test flights. The team also continues to make tremendous strides in building its first two Talon-A test vehicles: TA-0 and TA-1. TA-1 will start its power-on testing by the end of the year, keeping the company on track to begin hypersonic flight testing in 2022 and to deliver services to government and commercial customers in 2023.

Launched from Stratolaunch’s Roc carrier aircraft, the Talon-A vehicles are rocket-propelled, autonomous, reusable testbeds carrying customizable payloads at speeds above Mach 5. This capability enables routine access to the hypersonic flight environment, which is critical for scientific research, technological development, and component demonstration.

The Talon-A features a length of 28 feet (8.5 m), a wingspan of 11.3 feet (3.4 m), and a launch weight of approximately 6,000 pounds (2,722 Kg). It can take off and land autonomously on a conventional runway with its landing gear.