The world’s largest aircraft has successfully carried the hypersonic prototype vehicle Talon-A over the Mojave desert, marking yet another milestone in its continuous development. The Stratolaunch Roc, which is effectively two enormous airliners joined by a wing, is planned to transport the Talon-A to a high altitude, where the Mach 6 rocket test bed will be released for hypersonic aircraft testing.
“This is the first integrated flight test of our Talon launch system,” said Brandon Wood, Stratolaunch vice president of projects and operations, according to Space.com.
“From here, we’ll move on to more sophisticated, and certainly more productive, flights for our hypersonic testbed.”
While the Antonov-225 “Mriya,” which tragically perished during Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine, was technically the largest aircraft ever built (using the plane’s overall dimensions, including weight and fuselage length), Roc – named after the legendary bird of prey in Middle Eastern mythology – absolutely destroys all others in terms of wingspan. Roc has a wingspan of 117 meters (384 feet), which is the length of a football field, therefore it’s truly amazing that this plane can fly at all.
The Roc features six 747 jumbo jet engines to raise such a behemoth into the sky, carrying all 226,796 kilograms (500,000 pounds) of the plane to a maximum height of 11,000 meters (35,000 feet) when carrying the Talon-A.
While the Roc is a modern aircraft design accomplishment, it isn’t the main attraction. The Talon-A, which will allow interested parties to test various payloads in genuine hypersonic circumstances, is at the center of it all. Hypersonic aircraft are critical in both military and civilian applications, and a dependable and reusable test platform for such systems will be in great demand.
The Roc and Talon-A will now undergo a drop test in December, with the Talon-A-1 set to debut in early 2023 if successful. Following that, the TA2 and TA3 hypersonic test models will be deployed.