Stratolaunch Prepares for Reported In-Flight Drop Test of Talon Hypersonic Testbed
A tip from one of the most accomplished spotters in the U.S. on Thursday, October 13, 2022, led TheAviationist to the Mojave Air & Space Port to find “Roc”, the world’s largest aircraft, the one-off Stratolaunch, outside of its massive hangar. The next day, it’s engines were seen running and the massive, twin-fuselage, six-engine aircraft had been moved well away from its hangar.
“Roc”, the gigantic Stratolaunch carrier aircraft at Mojave Air & Space Port. (All images: Tom Demerly/TheAviationist.com)
According to additional, credible sources close to the Stratolaunch project, the aircraft is being prepared for an upcoming test flight that is reported to include the separation drop-test of an unmanned Talon-A hypersonic mock-up that is being referred to as “Talon-0” for this reported upcoming test.
Stratolaunch was seen loaded with what is reported to be a drop-test mock-up of the Talon-A reusable, hypersonic launch vehicle.
The source close to the project told TheAviationist that the aircraft may be ready for flight in, “Two to three weeks”.
Stratolaunch pushed back with engines running on Friday Oct. 14, 2022.
The sighting of Stratolaunch set off a rash of unsubstantiated rumors that the aircraft may perform a fly-over at the 2022 Aerospace Valley Open House, Air Show and STEM Expo at Edwards Air Force Base just south of where Stratolaunch is housed. The show is scheduled for Saturday and Sunday, October 15 & 16. An item on one schedule distributed to media at the show is claimed to feature the Talon-A hypersonic unmanned test vehicle. No official mention was made of Stratolaunch by airshow organizers.
Ground crewmen could be seen checking engines on Stratolaunch on Thursday Oct. 13, 2022.
When the source close to Stratolaunch was asked if the aircraft is going to appear at Edwards AFB, they replied, “We can’t. We don’t have the correct flight certification for a demonstration”.
The reported upcoming flight of Stratolaunch in, “Two to three weeks” was described to TheAviationist as a test of how the reusable Talon-A unmanned hypersonic will separate from the Stratolaunch launch aircraft. The source told us that, “The Talon-0 is an accurate representation of the weight, C.G. [center of gravity] and aerodynamic characteristics of the Talon-1. It even has a system for pumping fluid to simulate fuel flow.”
When Stratolaunch flies again, it will be the aircraft’s eighth flight according to our source. The massive twin-fuselage launch platform aircraft has a wingspan of 117-meters or 385-feet. It uses six Pratt & Whitney PW4000 jet engines repurposed from a pair of Boeing 747s. The aircraft’s landing gear is also repurposed from 747 aircraft. It is almost entirely made of advanced composites including carbon fiber.
Stratolaunch can carry and deploy up to three orbital vehicles for drop-launching for their flight into orbit. The launch concept competes with other commercial space payload launch concepts such as SpaceX, that was formerly in collaboration with Stratolaunch until 2012.