Aircraft developer Stratolaunch has announced the successful completion of its first captive carry (where the payload craft does not separate from the carrier aircraft) flight with the Talon-A separation test vehicle, TA-0.

The test vehicle was integrated with the carrier aircraft Roc, the world’s largest flying aircraft, using the centre wing pylon.

The eighth flight test of Roc lasted five hours and six minutes over the Mojave Desert and reached an altitude of 23,000 feet (7000 metres).

This flight focused on measuring the aerodynamic loads on the Talon-A vehicle while mated to Roc.

The loads captured in flight will validate aerodynamic predictions to ensure the release mechanism will function as designed.

Building confidence

“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 Zachary Krevor, Stratolaunch CEO and president.

The company will complete a series of captive carry flights in the coming months, culminating in a separation test of the TA-0 vehicle out over the Pacific Ocean in late 2022.

Parallel to flight test activity, the company is progressing on system tests of its first hypersonic flight test vehicle, TA-1 and on the fabrication of the first and second fully reusable hypersonic vehicles, TA-2 and TA-3.

Hypersonic flight services

The company anticipates delivering hypersonic flight services – exceeding five times the speed of sound – to government and commercial customers in 2023.

“Testing and production are accelerating as we push forward to meet our commitment of providing hypersonic flight test service to our customers next year. Our team will continue accomplishing more complex test milestones as we progress to our first hypersonic flight,” Krevor said.
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