Stratolaunch LLC is excited to announce the successful completion of its third Roc carrier aircraft test flight on Jan. 16, 2022. Roc is the world’s largest aircraft, with a 385 ft. wingspan. The aircraft took off at 8:47 a.m. PST and flew for 4 hours, 23 minutes over the Mojave Desert. It reached an altitude of 23,500 feet (7162.8 m) at an indicated air speed of 180 knots. This flight further prepared the carrier aircraft to support launches of its upcoming hypersonic testbed vehicle, Talon-A. Launched from the Roc carrier aircraft, Talon-A vehicles are rocket-powered, autonomous, reusable testbeds 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.
“Today’s successful flight demonstrates and validates improvements to the carrier aircraft’s systems and overall flight performance. We will take the data we gathered and continue to advance the aircraft’s operational performance to support hypersonic testing in 2022. The partial gear retraction seen during the flight is a graduated approach to building confidence in the landing gear and gear door hardware. Testing the left main landing gear individually mitigated risk and provided our aircrew with options for landing the aircraft in the event the hardware didn’t perform as expected. We’ll review the data and determine when we can get back into the air to continue advancing our unique, hypersonic architecture.,” said Dr. Zachary Krevor, Stratolaunch President and Chief Operating Officer.
In addition to testing the carrier aircraft, the team continues to make incredible strides in building its first two Talon-A test vehicles, TA-0 and TA-1. TA-1 completed its initial power-on testing in late December 2021, keeping the company on track to begin hypersonic flight testing in 2022 and to deliver services to government and commercial customers in 2023. Initial results of the test objectives achieved include:
Continued evaluation of the aircraft’s performance and handling characteristics at increased speeds and altitude
Validation of the left mid-main gear operations including door operations, and alternate gear extension of the left mid-main gear
Stratolaunch LLC is an American aerospace company providing high-speed flight test services. It was originally formed in 2011 to develop a new air-launched space transportation system, with its corporate headquarters located in Seattle, Washington. The company and development project were officially announced in December 2011 by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen and Scaled Composites founder Burt Rutan, who had previously collaborated on the creation of SpaceShipOne. The project originally had three primary components: a carrier aircraft being built by Scaled Composites (called the Stratolaunch), a multi-stage payload launch vehicle which was to have been launched at high altitude into space from under the carrier aircraft, plus a mating and integration system by Dynetics. Ultimately, only the carrier aircraft was fully developed by the time of Paul Allen’s death in late 2018. The carrier aircraft first flew in April 2019, at the Mojave Air and Space Port, reaching 15,000 ft (4,600 m) and 165 kn (305 km/h) in a 2 h 29 min flight.