Stratolaunch test flight shorter than planned

In a press release, Stratolaunch announced the completion of its sixth flight test of Roc, the world’s largest flying aircraft, by wingspan, June 9, 2022.

The aircraft flew for 1 hour and 26 minutes over the Mojave Desert and reached an altitude of 15,000 feet.

The original test flight was planned to be 3 1/2 hours. A sensor malfunctioned near the airplane’s left elevator on the left fuselage and the flight crew made a decision to return to home base and land on runway 30 at the Mojave Air and Space Port.

Stratolaunch comes in for a landing at the Mojave Air and Space Port, June 9, 2022. (Photograph by David Emenheiser)

The sixth flight focused on continuing Roc’s flight envelope expansion with the recent addition of the pylon on the aircraft’s center wing. The pylon, comprised of a mini-wing and adapter, will be used to safely carry and release reusable, rocket-powered Talon-A hypersonic vehicles.

“Today’s flight builds on previous successful flights and hardware enhancements,” said Dr. Zachary Krevor, Stratolaunch CEO and president. “We will leverage this flight experience as we complete integrated testing in the coming months and prepare for Talon-A test flights.”

The pylon, which was introduced during Roc‘s fifth test flight on May 4, 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.

It 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 custom structure also features a winch system that will load Talon-A vehicles onto the platform from the ground, expediting launch preparation and reducing the need for ground support.

The completed Talon-A test vehicle, TA-0 will be used to test and validate Roc’s release system and characterize the separation dynamics of the Talon vehicle. Stratolaunch’s Talon-A separation test vehicle, TA-0, mated to Roc carrier aircraft for the first time while in the huge hangar that was constructed specifically for Stratolaunch at Mojave Air & Spaceport.

According to a press release by Stratolaunch, the team is also making steady progress on system integration its first hypersonic flight test vehicle, TA-1 and on the fabrication of a third vehicle, TA-2, the first fully reusable hypersonic test vehicle. The company anticipates delivering hypersonic flight services to government and commercial customers in 2023.

The newly added pylon on the Stratolaunch center wing will be used to safely carry and release reusable, rocket-powered Talon-A hypersonic vehicles. (Photograph by Jim Mumaw)
The TA-0 attached to the Stratolaunch pylon. (Stratolaunch photograph)

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