Roc’s Seventh test flight flies high

Stratolaunch announced the completion of its seventh flight test of Roc, the world’s largest flying aircraft by wingspan, June 16, 2022.

The aircraft flew for 3 hours and 1 minute over the Mojave Desert and reached an altitude of 27,000 feet, a new altitude record for the aircraft.

The Stratolaunch Roc in flight over the Mojave Air and Space Port, June 16, 2022. (Stratolaunch photograph)

“Today’s flight is a success story of the Stratolaunch team’s ability to increase operational tempo to the pace desired by our customers for performing frequent hypersonic flight test,” said Dr. Zachary Krevor, Stratolaunch chief executive officer and president. “Furthermore, the team reached a new altitude record of 27,000 feet, thereby demonstrating the aircraft performance needed for our Talon hypersonic vehicle to reach its wide design range of hypersonic conditions.”

From a Stratolaunch Facebook post, “Those with a critical eye will have noticed a new data probe on the pylon structure during the last flight. The air data boom will measure the aero environment near Talon-A to ensure we meet our release criteria for future Talon-A launches.”

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.

Stratolaunch’s Talon-A separation test vehicle, TA-0, mated to Roc carrier aircraft for the first time earlier in the month, signaling a priority push toward captive carry and separation testing happening later this year.

“A new altitude record for Roc has been reached: 27,000 feet! This new maximum altitude demonstrates we can reach the heights needed for effective Talon launch trajectories. The flight focused on continued flight envelope expansion,” according to the Stratolaunch Facebook page.

Test objectives included:

  • Demonstration of increased maximum altitude capability;
  • Continued validation of the aircraft’s general performance and handling characteristics with the addition of the recently installed pylon hardware; and
  • Continued validation of landing gear operations including door functionality and alternate gear extension.

The company anticipates delivering hypersonic flight services to government and commercial customers in 2023.

This was the second Stratolaunch flight in less than two weeks.

(Stratolaunch photograph)

On June 9, the aircraft flew its sixth test flight lasting 1 hour and 26 mintues, reaching 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.

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.

The pylon was introduced during Roc’s fifth test flight on May 4.

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.

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