Stratolaunch’s new hypersonic test vehicle will launch from the world’s largest plane
Stratolaunch finally revealed the structurally complete Talon-A vehicle, TA-0, that will attach to the company's Roc aircraft, the largest plane in the world.
First revealed in a new issue of Aviation Week, the first Talon-A vehicle will be used to perform tests on the Roc's release system, which will be used to test hypersonic aircraft for customers including the U.S. Air Force.
The company also released images of the TA-0 attached to Roc's pylon on the center wing, to give an idea of what it will look like while in flight.
Stratolaunch near its first hypersonic test flight
The pylon hardware is a release mechanism that was first introduced for Roc's fifth flight test on May 4. It is made up of a mini-wing and adapter made with aluminum and carbon fiber skins. It weighs roughly 8,000 lbs (roughly 3,628 kg) and takes up roughly 14 feet (4.27 m) of Roc's 95-foot center wingspan.
The structure also features a winch system that helps operators load the Talon-A onto the platform faster from the ground, reducing the need for ground support and speeding up operations.
"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, Chief Executive Officer and President 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."
Talon-A is only a prototype test vehicle and it will not be powered in flight. Instead, it will be used to test and analyze the aerodynamics of future launch vehicles that will have autonomous capabilities and will use rocket propulsion to reach speeds above Mach 5.
Hypersonic flight will enable never-before-seen travel times
Stratolaunch will continue to conduct integration testing over the coming months before carrying out a captive carry and vehicle flight test later this year. Once it completes its testing on TA-0, the company will then start flying TA-1, which will be its first hypersonic test vehicle.
If all goes to plan, it will be helping to usher in a new era of hypersonic spaceflight that would allow military and commercial vehicles to travel at unprecedented speeds.
Hypersonic aircraft have the potential to massively reduce travel times. NASA, for example, recently announced a partnership with Argonne National Laboratory to help it test and develop hypersonic aircraft that could eventually travel between London and New York in just 2 hours with the help of computer simulations and artificial intelligence.