by Douglas Messier
MOJAVE, Calif. — Stratolaunch’s giant Roc aircraft’s sixth flight test ended more than two hours earlier than planned on Thursday due to an undisclosed problem.
Roc’s took off from the Mojave Air and Space Port in California for a 3.5 hour long flight test designed to continue expanding the aircraft’s flight envelope. Roc had a new pylon installed on its center wing that will be used to carry and launch rocket-powered Talon-A hypersonic vehicles.
Roc landed back at Mojave after 1 hour 26 minutes.
“During the test program, the team encountered results that determined they would not complete the full set of test objectives,” the company said in a press release. “Therefore, the team focused on accomplishing: continued validation of the aircraft’s general performance and handling characteristics, with the addition of the recently installed pylon hardware; [and] continued validation of landing gear operations including door functionality, and alternate gear extension.”
Stratolaunch did not elaborate on the results that cut short the flight, which reached an altitude of 15,000 feet (4,572 m). A company official sounded a positive note.
“Today’s flight builds on previous successful flights and hardware enhancements,” said Dr. Zachary Krevor, Stratolaunch Chief Executive Officer and President. “We will leverage this flight experience as we complete integrated testing in the coming months and prepare for Talon-A test flights.”
Stratolaunch recently integrated the Talon-A separation test vehicle with Roc. The company plans to conduct captive carry and drop tests later this year.
Engineers are conducting system integration on Talon-A 1, which will be the company’s first hypersonic flight test vehicle. The company is also fabricating Talon-A 2, which will be a fully reusable vehicle.
Stratolaunch’s goal is to provide hypersonic test services to commercial and government customers in 2023.