Successful test flight of unmanned aircraft in the US brings the hypersonic era closer

The six-engined Roc aircraft takes off with the Talon-A-1 test vehicle attached beneath its wings.
The six-engined Roc aircraft takes off with the Talon-A-1 test vehicle attached beneath its wings. Copyright Stratolaunch
By Associated Press
Share this articleComments
Share this articleClose Button

Carried aloft by the massive six-engine carrier aircraft Roc, Stratolaunch's Talon test craft reached speeds of Mach 5, five times the speed of sound.

ADVERTISEMENT

American aerospace company Stratolaunch hailed the first powered test flight of a new unmanned craft for hypersonic research on Saturday a success.

Hypersonic describes flights at speeds of at least Mach 5, or five times the speed of sound.

Chief Executive Officer Zachary Krevor said in a statement that the Talon-A-1 vehicle "reached high supersonic speeds approaching Mach 5 and collected a great amount of data at an incredible value to our customers".

Krevor said he could not release the specific altitude and speed because of proprietary agreements with customers.

The company's massive six-engine carrier aircraft Roc carried the Talon aloft, attached to the centre of its gigantic wing, and released it off the central coast of California in the US.

The Talon, powered by a liquid-fuel rocket engine, ended its flight by descending into the ocean as planned. While this Talon was expendable, a future version will be capable of landing on a runway for reuse.

Stratolaunch said the primary objectives for the flight included a safe air-launch release of the vehicle, engine ignition, acceleration, sustained climb in altitude, and a controlled water landing.

The unmanned Talon-A-1 test vehicle attached beneath the wings of the six-engined Roc aircraft.
The unmanned Talon-A-1 test vehicle attached beneath the wings of the six-engined Roc aircraft.Stratolaunch

Milestone in hypersonic testing

The company called the result a major milestone in the development of the United States' first privately funded, reusable hypersonic test capability.

Stratolaunch conducted two captive-carry flights, in December and February, in which the Talon was taken aloft with live propellant but was not released from the mothership.

Stratolaunch is based at Mojave Air and Space Port in the Mojave Desert north of Los Angeles.

The Roc aircraft, named after an enormous mythological bird, has a wingspan of 117 m and twin fuselages that give the impression of two big jets flying side by side.

It was developed by Microsoft co-founder Paul G Allen, who died just months before it flew for the first time in April 2019.

Allen intended to use it as a carrier aircraft for space launches, carrying satellite-laden rockets beneath the centre of the wing and releasing them at high altitude.

That project was canceled, and new owners then repurposed Stratolaunch for launches of reusable hypersonic research vehicles.

Stratolaunch has announced flight contracts with the US Air Force Research Laboratory and the Navy's Multiservice Advanced Capability Test Bed program as a subcontractor to technology company Leidos of Reston, Virginia.

Share this articleComments

You might also like