Stratolaunch, an American aerospace company, has successfully completed its first captive carry flight with the Talon-A separation test vehicle (TA-0) integrated with the Roc’s center wing pylon. The successful test flight proved that Stratolaunch’s massive Roc carrier aircraft, which has a wingspan longer than a football field, can indeed carry experimental hypersonic vehicles designed to launch from mid-air.
The Roc carrier aircraft is the world’s largest plane with side-by-side fuselages and a wingspan 385-foot-wide (117 meters). For the latest test flight, the Roc took off from the Mojave Air and Space Port carrying the 28-foot-long (8.5 meters) Talon prototype vehicle attached to a pylon at the center of the giant plane. The flight lasted 5 hours and 6 minutes over California’s Mojave Desert and reached a maximum altitude of 23,000 feet (7,000 m).
The last week’s test flight was its eighth flight overall of a carrier plane but the first with a vehicle. Stratolaunch plans to use the aircraft as a launch vehicle for small vehicles to be used to carry out research on hypersonic flight.
“We have conducted a variety of ground tests in anticipation of this first captive carry flight, and with each successful test milestone achieved, we have built confidence that the hardware will perform exactly as it was designed. It’s exhilarating to see the team’s hard work come to life and see the vehicles fly as an integrated system,” said Dr. Zachary Krevor, Stratolaunch’s Chief Executive Officer and President.
Founded in 2011 by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, Stratolaunch is developing a series of Talon vehicles as testbeds for hypersonic flights that can reach speeds of up to Mach 6.
The Talon-A was revealed in 2020 that will be carried by Roc into the sky and then released from the air, traveling at speeds of over Mach 5 and at altitudes of 35,000 ft (10,668 meters). Debuted in May this year, the TA-0 is an unpowered version of the test vehicle, which the company is using to test and validate Roc’s release system.
Stratolaunch is planning to complete a series of captive carry flights in the coming months, Culminating in a separation test of the TA-0 vehicle out over the Pacific Ocean in late 2022. Meanwhile, the company is progressing on system tests of its first hypersonic flight test vehicle, Talon-A TA-1, with the view of offering commercial flights in 2023.
“Testing and production are accelerating as we push forward to meet our commitment of providing hypersonic flight test service to our customers next year. Our team will continue accomplishing more complex test milestones as we progress to our first hypersonic flight,” Dr. Krevor said.