Stratolaunch has conducted a fourth flight test of its giant Roc aircraft, successfully retracting all of the landing gear during the flight.
Roc, which is the world’s largest aircraft, with a 385 ft. wingspan is being developed as a carrier aircraft to air launch Stratolaunch’s hypersonic testbed vehicle, Talon-A.
The Talon-A vehicles will be rocket-powered, autonomous reusable testbeds carrying customizable payloads at speeds above Mach 5. Stratolaunch is developing Talon to enable cheaper and routine access to the hypersonic flight environment for scientific research, technological development and component demonstration.
Roc’s complex landing gear system has 28 wheels and must be fully retracted for Talon-A launches to happen.
Zachary Krevor, Stratolaunch’s president and chief operating officer said, “Today’s successful flight demonstrates and validates improvements to the carrier aircraft’s systems and overall flight performance.
“The full landing gear retraction and extension brings the carrier aircraft closer to operational status, a milestone that is necessary to ready the aircraft for Talon-A separation and hypersonic flight tests later this year.”
Roc flew for 1 hour, 43 minutes over the Mojave Desert and reached an altitude of 15,000ft. As well as validating full landing gear operations including door functionality, and alternate gear extension, engineers also continued evaluating the aircraft’s performance and handling characteristics during the test flight.
In addition to testing the carrier aircraft, Stratolaunch continues to make progress on system integration of two Talon-A test vehicles, TA-0 and TA-1. The team has also started fabrication of a third vehicle, TA-2, the first fully reusable hypersonic test vehicle.
Stratolaunch plans to start hypersonic flight testing this year and to be delivering services to government and commercial customers in 2023.