- Parabolic Arc
- June 2, 2023
Stratolaunch Unveils Hypersonic Test Beds, Space Vehicle
by Douglas Messier
Stratolaunch has unveiled a pair of hypersonic test bed vehicles and a reusable spacecraft the company plans to launch from its giant dual fuselage airplane.
“Talon-A is a fully reusable, autonomous, liquid rocket-powered Mach 6-class hypersonic vehicle with a length of 28 feet (8.5 m), wingspan of 11.3 feet (3.4 m), and a launch weight of approximately 6,000 pounds (2,722 Kg),” the company’s website said.
“The Talon-A will conduct over 1-minute of hypersonic flight testing, and glide back for an autonomous, horizontal landing on a conventional runway. The vehicle will also be capable of autonomous take-off, under its own power, via a conventional runway,” the website added.
“Our hypersonic testbeds will serve as a catalyst in sparking a renaissance in hypersonic technologies for our government, the commercial sector, and academia,” CEO Jean Floyd is quoted on the website.
The company has also published a drawing of its Talon Z hypersonic vehicle that is in development. There’s no information on the website about Talon Z.
Stratolaunch said it is also developing Black Ice, which it describes as a fully reusable space plane with advanced on-orbit capabilities and cargo return. The initial version will be used for cargo, with follow-on variants capable of carrying astronauts.
The vehicles will be launched from Stratolaunch’s massive carrier aircraft, which has a wingspan of 385 ft (117.3 m).
Stratolaunch was originally a project of Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen and Scaled Composites Founder Burt Rutan. Their goal was to launch satellites into orbit and eventually send people there as well.
Efforts to develop the plane and rockets to fly from it lagged after the initial unveiling of the project in December 2011. Allen died in October 2018 without having seen the enormous aircraft ever take off.
Stratolaunch conducted its first — and so far, only — flight test on April 13, 2019. Allen’s heirs put the company up for sale.
Cerberus Capital Management acquired Stratolaunch in October 2019. The new owners subsequently announced they would use the aircraft to provide high-speed flight test services.
Stratolaunch officials have said they plan to resume flight tests of the vehicle in September from the Mojave Air and Space Port in California.
14 responses to “Stratolaunch Unveils Hypersonic Test Beds, Space Vehicle”
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When we say “unveiled”, does it mean they posted a bunch of renders ?
Renders are always the first thing trotted out.
It seems unlikely we’ll be seeing any actual bent metal anent either of the Talons or Black Ice for some time.
The Black Ice announcement is interesting because I seem to recall that being the notional name of the winged spaceplane concept Stratolaunch was working on during the time Paul Allen was still alive. Perhaps this presages the getting back together of the Allen-era spacecraft “band” at Stratolaunch? That would be nice.
‘Black Ice’ makes me think of blue ice, lol
I come from a part of the world where blue ice is certainly not unknown but where black ice is what you skid off the road into the ditch on several months of the year.
So, maybe a wee chuckle, but not LOL.
These things never die, and they almost never fly.
Actually, a fair number of them have died. Some have flown. More are likely to as the dead ones keep being replaced in ranks by new hopefuls. This particular one seems to be in the early stages of resurrection.
A certain amount of skepticism is certainly in order. But, on the plus side, Stratolaunch is once again in the hands of owners who actually intend to do something with it at least approximately equivalent to what its late creator intended. Even an orbital spaceplane seems to be back on the table, however notionally. This effort seems once more worth following with some optimism, though I wouldn’t expect to see any major results before mid-decade.
I view a lot of these things as a series of programs inter-linked by past research and cross talk via espionage. America’s X-2(x) program drove the Soviet BOR program which gave birth to efforts in OKB MiG which then crossed back over to HL-20 and is now SWR’s DollarChaster. ESA caught the bug in the 70’s which led to a pretty advanced design for Hermes which I believe influenced the thread of vehicles that became the X-37 which probably should no longer be called X, it seems operational from every metric I can think of.
Edit: Speaking of X-37 has that been given over to USSF yet?
Everything that flies has ancestry including Stratolaunch’s only current extant craft, the Roc – though whether it should be regarded as a descendant of the 747 or as a post-Borg assimilation version of same is debatable.
“Dollar Chaser” is a product of SNC, not SWR – whatever that may be.
The X-37B, I agree, has been operational for years now.
But changing its designation presents problems. The “A” (Attack), “B” (Bomber) and “F’ (Fighter) prefixes seem ruled out on functional grounds. Given that the X-37B pretty much acts as a transport, bringing things to space, then taking them back down, a “C” (Transport) designation would seem to be indicated. Problem is, the designation C-37B already exists as the military designation for the Gulfstream G550 bizjet – the regular civilian version of which is Elon Musk’s favored mode of air transport as it happens.
Perhaps the solution is to either tack a “U” (Utility) prefix onto its existing designation or to flat-out replace the X with the U.
Does the USSF now hold the pink slips for the X-37B’s? I dunno.
SWR is a formerly great bass amplification company
Didn’t know that. Now I do. Thanks, I guess.
I’m not sure Andrew T. will thank you though. Now he’s got a real, as well as an abbreviated, SWR to keep straight.
The always tasty SWR Redhead 2×10 combo
It’s U for sure. On it’s public face it always seems to be on recon, so again U works, but so would SR. Maybe TR if it’s a utility mainly for tactical users which again points to U, or the underused R.
Southwest Research, typo I always do between those two. No doubt a mental short. I know people who work at both places.
I figured it might be SWRI you were referring to. The usual shorthand does have the “I” in it because the outfit’s name is Southwest Research Institute. So SWRI is kinda like what someone once said about NCIS – it has more letters than all those other TV shows that have letters. Perhaps remembering that SWRI is an FLA and not a TLA will help.