Stratolaunch present the first hypersonic drone for high-altitude flights

After the fifth test flight of the largest Model 351 (Roc) aircraft ever built, the California aerospace company Stratolaunch is preparing to test a hypersonic aircraft that will be launched from a huge carrier aircraft.

For the first time, this device was talked about in 2020, called Talon-A. According to the idea of Stratolaunch, the hypersonic aircraft will be launched from the Model 351 aircraft at an altitude of 10 km. On May 26, a test version of Talon-A, called TA-0, was presented.

Talon-A hypersonic aircraft model. Photo: Stratolaunch

The TA-0 is not a complete version of the Talon-A with a rocket engine, but is a test drone with an aluminum body with a carbon fiber coating. The device will be fixed under the central wing of the carrier aircraft and used to test aerodynamics and systems. The first model will not even have an engine – it will land on the runway by simple planning.

Roc aircraft during the flight. Source: Stratolaunch

“After the TA-0 tests are completed, hypersonic test flights will be conducted on the next TA-1 model. The team has also started manufacturing the third vehicle, the TA–2, the first fully reusable hypersonic test vehicle,” Stratolaunch said.

Changing priorities

Initially, it was planned that Roc would deliver launch vehicles to the stratosphere, where they would launch their engines and go into low Earth orbit. The idea was that launching a spacecraft in this way would be much cheaper with less fuel than launching a launch vehicle directly from earth, fighting the earth’s gravity all the way up.

Talon-A hypersonic aircraft under the wing of the Roc carrier aircraft. Photo: Stratolaunch

After the change of ownership of the company, it was decided that the Roc would instead be used to launch Talon-A unmanned aircraft that would fly at a hypersonic speed of more than Mach 5. They will be used mainly for conducting research on various aspects of hypersonic flights.

Initially, Stratolaunch was going to conduct the first tests of Roc and Talon-A in early 2022. But now the test flight has been postponed to the middle-end of 2023.

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