Stratolaunch’s Roc, the world’s biggest airplane, drops The Talon hypersonic vehicle

The world’s largest airplane, the Stratolaunch Roc carrier airplane, has successfully dropped The Talon hypersonic test vehicle (Talon-A0 or TA-0 for short). Thus, the company proved its readiness to conduct a real test of hypersonic flight in a few months. 

Dropping The Talon hypersonic test vehicle from the Stratolaunch Roc. Photo: Ineresting Engineering 

The test took place on May 11. Roc took off from the Mojave Air and Space Port in Southern California during its 11th test flight. Talon-A0 was installed on a pylon under the wing of a twin-fuselage Roc airplane with a wingspan of 117 meters. Heading west, the world’s largest airplane dropped The Talon when it was off the central coast of California.

Since the test vehicle did not have an engine to develop hypersonic speed, therefore the Talon-A0 could only perform glider maneuvers and send telemetry data. The first prototype of the hypersonic vehicle also did not have a landing gear, so the Talon-A0 made a simulated landing and collided with water after testing. The carrier plane landed in Mojave four hours and eight minutes after launch.

Hypersonic airplane Talon-A0 (TA-0), which will be able to carry payloads at speeds of more than Mach 5

The ultimate goal of the Talon project is to build an operational reusable hypersonic airplane that can carry payloads at speeds of more than Mach 5, or five times the speed of sound. Tests at speeds over Mach 5 of the next prototype will begin at the end of this summer.

Hypersound instead of space

The dream of the founder of Stratolaunch, Paul Allen, was space — launching rockets from a giant carrier airplane. For this purpose, the aerospace company built the world’s largest Roc airplane in terms of wingspan, taking the name from the legendary bird from Arabic fairy tales. The Roc airplane has become a legend. It is powered by six engines from a Boeing 747, and it sits on 28 wheels of the chassis.

However, after the death of Paul Allen in 2018, Stratolaunch had to change its plans due to financial difficulties and forget about space, returning to testing hypersonic vehicles. Since Virgin Orbit recently has filed for bankruptcy, it looks like Stratolaunch has made the right bet and is now heading towards a promising future.

Earlier we reported on the history and prospects of air launch systems.

According to Ineresting Engineering

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