Stratolaunch completes the world’s largest aircraft’s fifth flight test

Stratolaunch completes fifth flight test of the world’s largest aircraft

The world’s largest flying aircraft, Roc, has completed its fifth flight test, according to Stratolaunch. The aircraft flew for 4 hours and 58 minutes over the Mojave Desert, reaching an altitude of 22,500 feet during the test flight (6858 meters). This flight was the longest of all, allowing the platform to expand its capabilities for launching aircraft from the air.

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The Roc has a twin-fuselage design and the world’s longest wingspan of 385 feet. Six Pratt & Whitney PW4056 engines are mounted on pylons outboard of each fuselage, each producing 56,750 lbf (252.4 kN) of thrust.

The fifth flight test saw the first appearance of a new pylon on the aircraft’s center wing, which will be used to transport and release Talon-A hypersonic vehicles. Talon-A is a high-speed testbed that can be used for hypersonic research, experiments, and operational missions. The reusable testbed can transport payloads at speeds greater than Mach 5. This feature allows for regular access to the hypersonic flight environment, which is vital for scientific research, technological development, and component demonstration.

Stratolaunch the world's largest aircraft's
Stratolaunch completes the world’s largest aircraft’s fifth flight test. Credit: Stratolaunch

The new pylon technology, which was added to the Roc for this launch, consists of an aluminum and carbon fiber mini-wing and adaptor. It weighs roughly 8,000 pounds (about 3,629 kg) and occupies 14 feet of Roc’s 95-foot center wingspan, allowing for ample room between the aircraft‘s dual fuselages for safe vehicle release and launch. The cutting-edge structure also includes a winch system that will lift Talon onto the platform from the ground, minimizing the requirement for ground support and speeding up launch preparation.

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“Today’s successful flight validates significant hardware improvements to the carrier aircraft. 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 has occurred since our last test flight. 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. ”

Dr. Zachary Krevor, Stratolaunch Chief Executive Officer and President
Stratolaunch the world's largest aircraft's
Stratolaunch completes the world’s largest aircraft’s fifth flight test. Credit: Stratolaunch

The team has also started the fabrication of a third vehicle, TA-2, the first fully reusable hypersonic test vehicle. The company anticipates beginning hypersonic flight testing and delivering services to government and commercial customers in 2023.

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