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Stratolaunch aims to achieve hypersonic velocities in the next Talon-A test

Stratolaunch is now making preparations for its next mission to achieve or exceed the milestone of five times the speed of sound after a successful test flight in which its Talon-A vehicle attained speeds close to hypersonic.

According to Zachary Krevor, the CEO of Stratolaunch, the March 9 test successfully achieved all of its key goals. The uncrewed spacecraft took off from Stratolaunch’s production and test facility located at Mojave Air and Space Port in California. It disengaged from its carrier vessel and achieved high supersonic velocities before its descent into the Pacific Ocean.

In an interview with C4ISRNET on March 11, Krevor indicated that the primary objective of this initiative was to mitigate risks associated with our platform. Our major aim was to successfully transition from the transonic period to the supersonic phase, achieving acceleration.

An aircraft reaches hypersonic speeds when it reaches Mach 5, and according to Krevor, the first powered Talon-A aircraft approached this velocity. The corporation withheld information about the test flight’s height and precise speed.

Stratolaunch aims to significantly advance the capabilities of the uncrewed Talon-A for its upcoming second powered trip, which is planned for the latter part of this year. The objective is to achieve hypersonic velocities and showcase the system’s potential to be reused by landing it on a runway.

Krevor said that the vehicle, named TA-2, would not see any alterations to its structure before the flight. He emphasized that the first mission confirmed the aircraft’s design and build. The organization, nonetheless, is contemplating operational insights derived from the TA-1 vehicle.

“We have acquired valuable operational insights regarding our propellant management and have identified areas for further improvement,” he said. Our organization is deeply committed to the principle of ongoing improvement.

The outcome of a successful Talon-A test campaign has great importance for the Defense Department’s hypersonic endeavors, which mostly revolve around deploying sophisticated weaponry and safeguarding against comparable systems being developed by China and Russia.

The Department of Defense (DoD) is striving to enhance the level of testing rigor by aiming to achieve a weekly flying frequency by 2022. The implementation of Talon-A has the potential to provide the department with a cost-effective and reusable platform for the purpose of testing and validating high-speed components, subsystems, and many other technologies.

The first powered flight of the Talon-A yielded valuable data for clients of the U.S. Defense Department, notably the Pentagon’s Test Resource Management Center. This center is now engaged in the development of an airborne hypersonic test capability known as SkyRange.

The next flight will further enhance the cooperation by using SkyRange’s sophisticated sensors to monitor the mission. Additionally, this mission will serve as the first deployment to provide assistance to the Pentagon’s Multi-Service Advanced Capability Hypersonics Test Bed program, often referred to as MACH-TB. The primary objective of the flying testbed initiative is to verify the functionality of hypersonic subsystems, sophisticated materials, and several other technologies.

The next mission constitutes one of the five Talon-A test flights, which are scheduled to transport MACH-TB payloads as per a contractual agreement established in November.

The business is now engaged in efforts to assure the readiness of its Talon-A carrier vehicle, known as Roc, for its next mission. The aircraft, with a wingspan of 385 feet and capable of carrying a payload of 500,000 pounds, will undertake a sequence of flights with the objective of increasing its height in preparation for the forthcoming Talon-A mission.

The flights are conducted as a component of obligatory inspections by the Federal Aviation Administration in order to verify the airworthiness of Roc.

According to Krevor, during the TA-1 mission, namely Roc’s 14th flight, the aircraft exhibited a turnaround time of two weeks, resulting in a total flight duration of around 60 hours.

“Roc is becoming a reliable aircraft that will serve as a valuable national resource for the United States, enabling the execution of missions that were previously unattainable,” he said.

The Boeing 747 that Stratolaunch is currently arranging for will be its second carrier aircraft. Virgin Orbit previously owned it before declaring bankruptcy last spring. This aircraft will be used to assist with Talon A flights in the next year. In order to assure compatibility with its data systems and interfaces, the organization is implementing adjustments to the platform.

Prior to commencing Talon A operations, the aircraft will undergo secret DoD testing.

According to Krevor, the 747 aircraft is expected to facilitate further customer flight testing during the fourth quarter of the current year, but he is unable to provide an extensive explanation.

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