Stratolaunch to launch Talon-A hypersonic test aircraft in coming months


Mojave, California-based Stratolaunch has completed the second test flight of the giant Roc aircraft carrying the Talon-A, as it builds to the first air launch of the hypersonic test vehicle.

Talon-A is a rocket-powered, autonomous and reusable testbed launched from under the center of Roc’s wing. The test vehicle, which is designed to travel at speeds of above Mach 5 is intended to be used to flight test air vehicles and associated components and systems at hypersonic speeds at a reduced cost.

Customers for the Talon-A include the US Air Force.

The Roc carrier aircraft/launch platform is the world’s largest flying aircraft and has a wingspan of 385ft.

The flight last week, which is the ninth in total for Roc set a new duration record, lasting for six hours during which the aircraft reached a maximum altitude of 22,500ft.

The primary objectives achieved during the test flight included flying outside of the local Mojave area for the first time and evaluating the separation environment for the Talon-A, said Stratolaunch.

The onboard data systems in Roc and the Talon-A provided information on the aerodynamic loads and moments occurring before the release of the wing-launched test vehicle. The flight team also practiced chase formation and communication sequencing for the upcoming separation test.

Engineers are now reviewing the flight data to determine the next steps on the test timeline. The company aims to run the first full separation test and hypersonic flight of a Talon-A vehicle before July this year.

Dr. Zachary Krevor, CEO and president of Stratolaunch said, “Our team is continuing to make progress on our test timeline, and it is through their hard work that we grow closer than ever to safe separation and our first hypersonic flight tests.

“The thorough evaluation of release conditions will provide data to reduce risks and ensure a clean and safe release of Talon-A during future tests. We are excited for what’s ahead this year as we bring our hypersonic flight test service online for our customers and the nation.”

Development of Roc started more than ten years ago, with the Stratolaunch initially pursuing a concept that would see the giant aircraft act as a flying platform from which to launch small satellites into orbit at a reduced cost compared to ground-based rocket launches. The aircraft first rolled out in 2017  and made its first flight in 2019.

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Ben has worked as a journalist and editor, covering technology, engineering and industry for the last 20 years. Initially writing about subjects from nuclear submarines to autonomous cars to future design and manufacturing technologies, he was editor of a leading UK-based engineering magazine before becoming editor of Aerospace Testing in 2017.

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