Stratolaunch, operator of the world’s largest airplane, has unveiled a separation vehicle test article which will be used to demonstrate the massive aircraft’s air-to-launch capabilities.
This first Talon-A vehicle—dubbed TA-0— is critical to the mission of the airplane known as Roc. TA-0 will be used to test and validate Roc’s sophisticated payload release system. The airplane—the world’s largest by wingspan—completed its fifth test flight earlier this month.
“We’re proud to reveal our first test vehicle to the public and our key stakeholders. TA-0 represents the immense progress our company has made toward hypersonic flight in a short period of time,” said Dr. Zachary Krevor, president and CEO at Stratolaunch.
“Our pace of development parallels the nation’s critical need for hypersonic test capabilities, and we are putting forth every effort toward becoming a national test asset for our government and commercial customers in 2023,” Krevor said.
The Talon-A testbeds are designed to attach to Roc’s 8,000 pound pylon, which hangs from the airplane’s 95-foot center wing, between its enormous twin fuselages.
Stratolaunch’s business model calls for it to launch small, autonomous, rocket-powered, hypersonic testbeds from altitudes around 35,000 feet.
This initial Talon-A iteration will not be powered during flight, but upcoming versions will be rocket-powered, autonomous, and reusable—designed to reach hypersonic speeds above Mach 5. First flight tests of the first Talon-A are expected to be conducted later this year.
Eventually, once Roc is fully operational sometime next year, Stratolaunch is expected to provide “threat replication” for the Pentagon’s Missile Defense Agency to help scientists understand how to engage and intercept hypersonic weapons.