Stratolaunch Roc carrier aircraft makes third test flight


Stratolaunch has successfully completed a third test flight of its Roc carrier aircraft, the world’s largest airplane this week.

The flight took place on January 16 and lasted for 4 hours, 23 minutes over the Mojave Desert. Roc, which is named after a mythical bird of prey, reached an altitude of 23,500ft at an indicated air speed of 207mph (333km/h).

Roc is the world’s largest aircraft by wingspan, which measures in at 385ft.

The test flight is another step towards the use of the Roc carrier aircraft to 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 the testbed to enable cheaper and routine access to the hypersonic flight environment for scientific research, technological development and component demonstration.

During the test flight several objectives were achieved including the continued evaluation of the aircraft’s performance and handling characteristics at increased speeds and altitude. Engineers also validated the left mid-main gear operations including door operations, and alternate gear extension of the left mid-main gear 

Dr. Zachary Krevor, Stratolaunch president and chief operating officer said, “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 hypersonic architecture.”

In addition to testing the carrier aircraft, Stratolaunch’s engineers are continuing to progress the building of the 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. Stratolaunch plans to deliver the first Talon-A vehicle for use by government and commercial customers in 2023.

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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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