World’s Largest Airplane Makes Talon-A Test Vehicle Flight

The captive carry test flight was the eighth for Stratolaunch’s Roc, testing its inflight launch capability.

The world’s largest airplane made its eighth flight Friday, its first ever with the Talon-A Test Vehicle. [File Photo Courtesy: Stratolaunch]

Stratolaunch, the airplane with the world’s largest wingspan, conducted a first-ever captive carry test flight with a separation vehicle Friday over the Mojave Desert.

The Talon-A is a reusable autonomous hypersonic testbed vehicle. It is critical to the mission of the airplane known as Roc, and will be used to test and validate the aircraft's sophisticated payload release system. 

"Today’s flight is the first time we will carry the Talon-A separation test vehicle onboard Roc’s center wing pylon," Stratolaunch said Friday morning, adding that the flight's focus would be on measuring the aerodynamic loads on the Talon-A vehicle while mated to the aircraft.

The 238-foot-long turbofan-powered airplane lifted off from the California desert runway around 8:20 a.m. PDT. It features six Pratt & Whitney PW4056 turbine powerplants, three mounted on pylons under each wing.

The Talon-A testbeds are designed to attach to Roc’s 8,000-pound central pylon, which hangs from the airplane’s 95-foot center wing section, 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. 

Thom Patterson contributed.

Kimberly is managing editor of FLYING Digital.

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