Stratolaunch’s ‘Roc’ carrier aircraft completed a major milestone on Friday as it took off from California’s Mojave Airport, carrying a hypersonic Talon-A vehicle on its center wing pylon.
Although the Talon-A is an unpowered prototype (TA-0), it will complete several trials aimed at the first launch of the TA-1, which will perform hypersonic flight after being released by the Roc.
The six-engine, two-fuselage aircraft took off from the Mojave Air and Space Port at 8:22 am local time and remained in flight for 5 hours and 6 minutes reaching an altitude of 23,000 feet (7,000 meters).
“We have conducted a variety of ground tests in anticipation of this first captive carry flight, and with each successful test milestone achieved we have built confidence that the hardware will perform exactly as it was designed. It’s exhilarating to see the team’s hard work come to life and see the vehicles fly as an integrated system,” said Dr. Zachary Krevor, Stratolaunch Chief Executive Officer and President.
The Roc has been flying its center pylon since May, a 3,630 kg piece made of carbon fiber and aluminum. The program predicts that the Talon TA-0 will be released in flight over the Pacific Ocean by the end of 2022.
Only then will Stratolaunch switch to using the TA-1 and, in the future, the TA-2, the first fully reusable hypersonic test vehicle, and the TA-3, which is being assembled.
Stratolaunch was created by former Microsoft founder (together with Bill Gates), Paul Allen, who passed away four years ago. He intended to perform rocket and spacecraft launches economically from the Roc.
The company, however, was sold to Cerberus Capital Management, which decided to change the focus of the business, investing in a launch platform for hypersonic vehicles. Stratolaunch’s goal is to start services as early as 2023.
Roc is airborne over the Mojave Desert! Today’s flight will focus on measuring the aerodynamic loads on the Talon-A vehicle while mated to Roc. Follow along with today’s flight: https://t.co/ZzEL4kaTLU #LetsRoc pic.twitter.com/vkeFrmpYG5
— Stratolaunch (@Stratolaunch) October 28, 2022