Calspan and Stratolaunch partner to develop Talon-A hypersonic testbed

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Aerospace company Calspan is to build and test models of Stratolaunch’s Talon-A hypersonic testbed in its transonic wind tunnel in Buffalo, New York over the coming months.

Stratolaunch, which is based at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California originally developed its massive carrier aircraft as a launch platform for satellites.

The double-fuselaged, all-composite carrier aircraft made its maiden flight in April 2019. It has a wingspan of 385ft (117m) and is powered by six Pratt & Whitney PW4056 engines, with a maximum take-off weight of 1,300,000 lbs (590,000kg) and a reinforced center wing that can support vehicles that weigh up to 500,000 lbs (227,000kg).

Since then Stratolaunch has  realigned itself as a provider of testing and development services to projects developing hypersonic air vehicles. The company is now developing three vehicles to launch from its carrier aircraft, two testbeds for hypersonic flight testing, Talon-A and Talon-Z and a space-plane called Black Ice.

The fully reusable Talon-A that testing-services provider Calspan will test in its recently-upgraded transonic wind tunnel is an autonomous, liquid rocket-powered Mach 6-class hypersonic vehicle. Under the contract, Calspan will build scale models of Talon-A, one of which will be tested in the company’s transonic wind tunnel in Buffalo.

The models will be completed later this year, and wind tunnel testing is scheduled to be be completed by April next year.

Lou Knotts, CEO of Calspan said, “We are proud to work with Stratolaunch and to provide them with data essential to understanding the performance of their Talon-A hypersonic testbed.

“Our mission is to improve safety for the aerospace and transportation communities through simulation, testing, training, and technology services. We plan to expand upon this mission, with our eyes set on the high-speed market including supersonics and hypersonics. We’re very excited about the continued evolution of our capabilities in order to better serve our customers for generations to come.”

Dr Zachary Krevor, chief operating officer of Stratolaunch said, “Our mission is to advance high-speed technology through innovative design, manufacturing, and operation of world-class aerospace vehicles. Working with Calspan accelerates our ability to safely launch fully operational hypersonic vehicles from our carrier aircraft.”

Talon-A will have a length of 28ft (8.5 m), a wingspan of 11.3ft (3.4m), and a launch weight of approximately 6,000 lbs (2,722kg). The Talon-A will conduct over 1-minute of hypersonic flight testing, and glide back for an autonomous, horizontal landing on a conventional runway. The vehicle will also be capable of autonomous take-off, under its own power, via a conventional runway.

 

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Ben has worked as a journalist and editor, covering almost all aspects of 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 eventually becoming editor of Aerospace Testing in 2017.

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