Stratolaunch’s massive Roc aircraft performed the first in-flight release and separation test of the Talon-A test vehicle, the TA-0 prototype, on May 13. This was the 11th flight of the aircraft originally designed to launch special vehicles and the second sortie from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
According to the company, the new Roc flight lasted a total of four hours and eight minutes. The test served to assess the risks of separating the Talon-A from the center wing pylon, which was performed “cleanly and safely”, Stratolaunch reported. The test also confirmed the operation of the telemetry between the aircraft and the ground base.
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With the good results achieved in the separation test, Stratolaunch is now preparing to carry out the first hypersonic flight of Talon-A, with the TA-1 version, during the summer.
“It was exhilarating to see TA-0 release safely away from Roc, and I commend our team and partners. Our hardware and data collection systems performed as anticipated, and we now stand at the precipice of achieving hypersonic flight,” said Zachary Krevor, CEO and President of Stratolaunch.
Stratolaunch was created by former Microsoft founder (with Bill Gates), Paul Allen, who passed away five years ago. He intended to cost-effectively launch rockets and spacecraft from the Roc.
The company, however, was sold to Cerberus Capital Management, which decided to change the focus of the business, investing in a launching platform for hypersonic vehicles.
The Roc is currently the largest plane in the world. The model with two separate fuselages and equipped with six engines is 73 meters long and has an impressive 117 meters wingspan, and can take off with a maximum weight of 589,670 kg. The aircraft was designed by Scaled Composites, founded by the legendary Burt Rutan.