Stratolaunch Milestone: Roc Plane Successfully Carries Fueled Hypersonic Vehicle in Historic Flight

Image credit: Stratolaunch

Roc, known as the largest airplane globally, achieved a groundbreaking milestone by conducting a captive-carry flight with a powered Talon-A test vehicle on December 3. This marked the first-ever flight of its kind for the Stratolaunch carrier plane, emphasizing the company’s commitment to cutting-edge aerospace technology.

The primary focus of this flight was the evaluation of the propulsion system of the Talon-A craft, also known as TA-1. This vehicle boasts a liquid-propellant rocket engine, designed to propel it to hypersonic speeds. The success of ground tests, including fueling and ignition, paved the way for this airborne assessment, aiming to gauge the system’s behavior in a dynamic flight environment.

Zachary Krevor, the CEO of Stratolaunch, expressed optimism about the initial results, stating, “While we have conducted several successful ground tests fueling and igniting the system, we needed to evaluate how the system performs in the flight environment prior to release.” The comprehensive data review following the test will guide the determination of the next steps for this ambitious project.

The flight, Roc’s 12th overall, showcased the immense capabilities of the carrier plane with its staggering wingspan of 385 feet (117 meters). The aircraft took to the skies for three hours and 22 minutes, originating from the Mojave Air and Space Port in Southern California. Notably, the Talon-A test vehicle remained securely attached to the carrier plane throughout the entirety of the flight.

This milestone represents a substantial leap forward in Stratolaunch’s immediate goal of achieving a powered flight with the Talon-A vehicle. Originally established by Microsoft’s Paul Allen in 2011 with the vision of air-launching rockets, Stratolaunch shifted its focus in 2019 to hypersonic research and development. Hypersonic vehicles, capable of flying at least five times the speed of sound, have become a pivotal area of exploration for the company.

The Talon-A craft, designed for reusability, is poised to become Stratolaunch’s flagship in the realm of hypersonic vehicles. Beyond TA-1, the company hints at additional developments, including the Talon+ vehicle and a space plane. Stratolaunch has already secured contracts, including a recent agreement with Leidos for five hypersonic flights using Talon-A vehicles. This further solidifies Stratolaunch’s presence in the ever-evolving landscape of hypersonic research and development, showcasing its commitment to innovation in aerospace technology.

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