Stratolaunch is almost touching the first test flight of its hypersonic aircraft. The Californian company has been pursuing this same goal since it was founded in 2011 by Paul Allen , the co-founder of Microsoft.
Allen never saw the plane completed and the company has changed owners since his death, but he is on the verge of achieving it.
Stratolaunch continues to complete testing of the Talon-A ahead of its long-awaited debut
The Talon-A hypersonic aircraft completed a fuel-laden “wet test” last Tuesday as its Roc mothership, the world’s largest aircraft, taxied down the runway at the Mojave spaceport.
The largest plane in the world will be in charge of launching it over the Mojave Desert
After a successful flight deployment test last year, Stratolaunch hoped to launch the aircraft in the first half of 2023. That hasn’t happened, but now we’ve finally seen progress. The Roc is ready and the Talon has started moving.
First launch of Stratolaunch Talon-A hypersonic aircraft
Stratolaunch is best known for the Stratolaunch Roc, a 117-meter wingspan that dwarfs industry heavyweights such as the recently defunct Antonov An-225 Mriya or the unsuccessful Hughes H-4 Hercules floatplane . He has been on almost a dozen flights and this year he broke his duration record: six hours in the air.
However, the Roc is not exactly a transport aircraft, but a launcher. Its objective is to deploy the Talon-A in flight, a small hypersonic aircraft capable of transporting cargo at speeds of more than 6,000 kilometers per hour, or in other words: Mach 5+.
So that? To offer potential clients, such as the Pentagon, routine access to the “hypersonic environment.” That is, to transport things very quickly.
Because yes, apart from a space race, there is a hypersonic race in which the United States , China and their private companies compete to put different concepts of hypersonic aircraft in the sky that promise to fly at speeds between Mach 5 and Mach 10 , 6000 at 12,000 km/h.
They will be the spiritual heirs of the fastest plane in history: the X-15 from NASA and the United States Air Force , which with its rocket engine managed to reach 6,587 km/h at an altitude of 30,968 meters. To put that in context, the Concorde was a supersonic aircraft capable of flying at a speed of Mach 2, which is equivalent to about 2,000 km/h.
Stratolaunch’s Talon -A will be launched at an altitude of 10,000 meters. With future models, such as the Talon+ and the Space Plane, Stratolaunch aims to go faster and higher, soaring through the stratosphere and even surpassing the frontier of space (which was Paul Allen’s original plan).
First, of course, the company will have to demonstrate that the Roc and Talon-A are capable of completing their first hypersonic launch.