Stratolaunch LLC has completed a third captive-carry flight of its Talon-A test vehicle.
The flight of the vehicle was the 10th for the company’s launch aircraft, called Roc, and marks the beginning of routine flight operations from Vandenberg Space Force Base’s western range off the central coast, according to a release from the Mojave-based aerospace manufacturing company.
The Talon-A is a rocket-propelled, autonomous reusable testbed vehicle that carries customizable payloads at speeds greater than Mach 5. The Talon-A will be launched from Roc, which will carry it aloft.
Roc is the world’s largest aircraft and has a 385-foot wingspan.
The third captive carry flight, which took place on April 1 and lasted five hours, performed risk reduction by practicing a variety of separation profiles and confirming telemetry between Roc and Talon-A vehicles and Vandenberg Space Force Base’s communication facilities, assuring that back-up telemetry data collection will occur during future flight tests, according to Stratolaunch.
Pending results of post-flight data analysis, the team will progress toward a separation test in the coming weeks, enabling the company to perform its first hypersonic flight later this year.
Zachary Krevor, chief executive of Stratolaunch, said that this third captive-carry flight accomplished data collection and verification of hardware that further builds confidence and reduces risks for its upcoming release test of the TA-0.
“The team also practiced the release sequence, enabling us to collect important data regarding how the Stratolaunch Talon Launch System performs during this dynamic phase of flight,” Krevor said.
He also thanked the staff at the space force base’s western range for its support of the company’s mission.
“Their partnership is a wonderful example of what can be achieved when private and government organizations come together to accomplish a mutually beneficial goal,” Krevor said. “We look forward to working together during our future operations pursuing hypersonic flight.”
Other partnerships are also in the works.
In January, for instance, Stratolaunch and Purdue University announced a collaboration committed to fast-tracking the time required to design, build, test, and fly hypersonic vehicles.
The company will establish the Stratolaunch Advanced Programs Office at the Convergence Center in Purdue’s Discovery Park District in West Lafayette, Indiana, to ensure the goals of their collaboration will be rapidly achieved, according to a release from the company and the university.
Through their collaboration, Stratolaunch and Purdue will leverage the university’s multidisciplinary hypersonic design methods, ground-test facilities, faculty, staff and students to anchor ground simulations.