Stratolaunch’s Roc airplane comes in for a Mojave landing. (Stratolaunch / NASASpaceflight.com)
Today brought the fifth flight test for Stratolaunch’s 385-foot-wide carrier aircraft, known as Roc (in a nod to the giant bird of Middle Eastern mythology). Roc ranks as the world’s largest airplane by wingspan, and is designed to carry and release the company’s rocket-powered Talon-A hypersonic vehicles for military and commercial applications.
Seattle billionaire Paul Allen, the late co-founder of Microsoft, founded the venture in 2011 — but after Allen’s death in 2018, ownership was transferred to a private equity firm. Like Virgin Galactic and Virgin Orbit, Stratolaunch takes advantage of air-launch technology pioneered during the award-winning SpaceShipOne campaign that Allen bankrolled nearly two decades ago.
Roc took off from California’s Mojave Air and Space Port at 7:39 a.m. PT today for a flight that lasted four hours and 58 minutes and reached a maximum altitude of 22,500 feet. Stratolaunch took note of the Star Wars Day connection in a post-landing tweet. “The force is strong in this plane,” the company said.
The test’s prime objective was to check the aerodynamic performance of a new pylon added to Roc’s center wing section. The 8,000-pound, 14-foot-wide pylon consists of a mini-wing and adapter, and will serve as the attachment point for Stratolaunch’s swept-wing Talon-A hypersonic vehicles. The structure includes a winch system that will load the Talon-A onto the platform from the ground.
Today’s flight also focused on landing gear operations, including door functionality and alternate gear extension.
Our team recently installed a pylon on the center wing of Roc that is used to carry and launch the Talon-A test vehicle. Meet our engineers involved with the hardware integration and learn more about how we are preparing for separation testing and hypersonic flight test. #LetsRoc pic.twitter.com/uxZYskQ7MZ
— Stratolaunch (@Stratolaunch) April 15, 2022
Stratolaunch’s CEO and president, Zachary Krevor, said the flight successfully validated the hardware improvements.
“The pylon is a crucial component of our combined launch system, and I am proud of the team’s timely and quality integration work that occurred since our last test flight,” Krevor said in a news release. “It is through their dedication that we continue to make steady progress toward achieving our next milestones of Talon-A flight tests later this year.”
Last December, the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency awarded Stratolaunch a contract to assess the applicability of a reusable hypersonic test bed for military applications, including intercepting hypersonic threats. The company expects to begin delivering services to government and commercial customers in 2023.
Source by www.geekwire.com