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New pylon debuted for Stratolaunch 5th test flight

On the calm morning of May 4, also known as Star Wars Day, Stratolaunch (Roc), the world’s largest aircraft by wingspan, lifted gracefully from Runway 30 at the Mojave Air and Space Port.

The aircraft flew for 4 hours and 58 minutes over the Mojave Desert and reached an altitude of 22,500 feet.

The fifth flight debuted a new pylon on the aircraft’s center wing that will be used to carry and release Talon-A hypersonic vehicles. The hardware is comprised of a mini-wing and adapter that is constructed with aluminum and carbon fiber skins.

Stratolaunch in flight over the Mojave Air and Space Port, May 4, 2022. (Photograph by Jim Mumaw)

According to a press release by Stratolaunch, the pylon weighs approximately 8,000 pounds and occupies 14-feet of Roc’s 95-foot center wingspan, allowing for adequate space between the aircraft’s dual fuselages for safe vehicle release and launch.

The pylon also has incorporated a winch system to lift the Talon-A onto the pylon from the ground. This will expedite the launch preparation and moderate the need for extra ground support personnel.

Launched from the Roc carrier aircraft, Talon-A vehicles are rocket-powered, autonomous, reusable test-beds 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 can be fitted out with different payloads and is fully reusable, designed to enable swift, repeatable testing of hypersonic flight technologies for all manner of applications.

Initial results from the flight test objectives include:

  • Validation of the aircraft’s general performance and handling characteristics, with the addition of the recently installed pylon hardware.
  • Continued validation of landing gear operations including door functionality, and alternate gear extension.

In May 4 press release, Dr. Zachary Krevor, Stratolaunch chief executive officer and president said, “Today’s successful flight validates important hardware improvements to the carrier aircraft.

“The pylon is a crucial component of our combined launch system, and I am proud of the team’s timely and quality integration work that occurred since our last test flight. It is through their dedication that we continue to make steady progress toward achieving our next milestones of Talon-A flight tests later this year.”

In addition to testing the carrier aircraft, the team continues to make progress on system integration and functional testing of two Talon-A test vehicles, TA-0 and TA-1

Stratolaunch in flight over the Mojave Air and Space Port, May 4, 2022. (Photograph by Jim Mumaw)

Family Day at Stratolaunch

On May 6, Stratolaunch opened the hangar to employees’ family members. Since my grandson works there, I had the wonderful opportunity to see where all the magic happens!

No pictures were permitted inside the hangar, but I can tell you it was a grand occasion with the emphasis on kids! Two bouncy houses, hot dogs, popcorn, cotton candy, a taco truck, special kids games, a CHP Patrol car with a table full of stickers and special items for kids and a huge booth selling shirts and hats with the Stratolaunch logo.

Outside we were treated to an up close and personal walk around the mega huge aircraft known as Roc. We were even allowed to take a peek inside the cockpit that is located in the right fuselage.

Six Pratt & Whitney 4056 engines, hydraulic system, electrical systems, landing gear and windshields, among other major components were fitted onto the Stratolaunch aircraft from two ex-United Airlines Boeing 747-400s.

The yokes, rudder pedals, control seat rails, cockpit cabin floors, and instrument panels all came from the 747.

Soon the prototype Talon-A will be lifted into the pylon for a captive-carry flight.

Exciting times ahead for Stratolaunch!

Cathy Hansen gets a close up look inside the cockpit. (Photograph by Mark Burdick)
The Talon A-0. (Stratolaunch photograph)
The Talon-A1. (Stratolaunch photograph)
The left landing gear of the Stratolaunch aircraft. (Photograph by Mark Burdick)
The Stratolaunch pylon was on display during the Family Day. In the background is the Stratolaunch hangar. (Photograph by Mark Burdick)

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