California aerospace company Stratolaunch has successfully completed a separation release test of the Talon-A separation test vehicle, TA-0. The flight was the eleventh for the company’s Roc carrier aircraft and the second time the team has conducted flight operations in Vandenberg Space Force Base’s Western Range off California’s central coast.
The Stratolaunch Roc is the largest airplane in the world that has a wingspan of 385 feet, which is longer than a football field. It sports two side-by-side fuselages, six Boeing 747 engines, 28 wheels, and wings that stretch 385 ft (117 m) from tip to tip. The mothership aircraft is designed to carry air-launch-to-orbit rockets and hypersonic vehicles.
The company plans to use the plane o carry its smaller uncrewed Talon-A (TA-1) hypersonic aircraft to an altitude of 35,000 ft (10,000 meters). At this point, the aircraft will be released from the underside of the Roc to fly on its own.
The Talon-A reusable, rocket-powered, hypersonic flight vehicle, intended to reach Mach 5-7 after launch and then autonomously land on a runway.
The test flight, which lasted 4 hours and 8 minutes, demonstrated that the Talon-A launch system could cleanly and safely separate hypersonic vehicles from Roc’s center-wing pylon. The test also confirmed telemetry between the vehicles and Vandenberg Space Force Base’s communication assets, assuring that backup telemetry data collection will occur during future hypersonic flight tests.
The Stratolaunch plans to have its first hypersonic flight with the Talon-A vehicle in the first half of 2023. With this landmark test completed, the team will progress toward that goal.
“It was exhilarating to see TA-0 release safely away from Roc, and I commend our team and partners. Our hardware and data collection systems performed as anticipated, and we now stand at the precipice of achieving hypersonic flight,” said Dr. Zachary Krevor, Chief Executive Officer and President for Stratolaunch.