Stratolaunch completed a successful third test flight of its Roc carrier aircraft, the world’s largest aircraft, this week.
The flight took place on January 16 and lasted 4 hours and 23 minutes over the Mojave Desert. Roc, named after a mythical bird of prey, reached an altitude of 23,500 feet at an indicated airspeed of 207 mph (333 km/h).
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Roc is the largest aircraft in the world by wingspan, which measures 385 feet.
The test flight is another step towards using the Roc carrier aircraft to launch Stratolaunch’s hypersonic test bed vehicle, Heel-A.
Talon-A vehicles will be self-contained reusable rocket-powered testbeds carrying customizable payloads at speeds in excess of Mach 5. Stratolaunch is developing the testbed to enable cheaper, routine access to the environment hypersonic flight platform for scientific research, technology development and component demonstration.
During the test flight, several objectives were achieved, including the ccontinuous evaluation of aircraft performance and handling characteristics at increased speeds and altitude. Engineers also validated left center main gear operations, including door operations, and left center main gear alternate speed extension
Dr. Zachary Krevor, President and COO of Stratolaunch, said, “Today’s successful flight demonstrates and validates improvements to the carrier aircraft systems and overall flight performance. We will take the data we have gathered and continue to improve the operational performance of the aircraft to support hypersonic testing in 2022.
“The partial gear retraction observed during flight is a graded approach to build confidence in the landing gear and gear door hardware. Individual testing of the left main landing gear mitigated risk and provided our crew with options to land the aircraft in case the equipment does not perform as expected.
“We will review the data and determine when we can return to the air to continue advancing our hypersonic architecture.”
In addition to testing the carrier aircraft, Stratolaunch engineers continue to advance construction of the first two Talon-A test vehicles, TA-0 and TA-1.
TA-1 completed its first power-up tests at the end December 2021, keeping the company on track to begin hypersonic flight testing in 2022. Stratolaunch expects to deliver the first Talon-A vehicle for use by government and commercial customers in 2023.
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