The aircraft took off at 11:47 a.m. EST and flew for 4 hours, 23 minutes over the Mojave Desert in California. It reached an altitude of 23,500 feet at an indicated air speed of 180 knots. This flight further prepared the carrier aircraft to support launches of its upcoming hypersonic testbed vehicle, Talon-A.
Launched from the Roc carrier aircraft, Talon-A vehicles are rocket-powered, autonomous, reusable testbeds carrying customizable payloads at speeds above Mach 5. This capability enables routine access to the hypersonic flight environment, which is critical for scientific research, technological development, and component demonstration.
"We will take the data we gathered and continue to advance the aircraft's operational performance to support hypersonic testing in 2022,” said Zachary Krevor, Stratolaunch president and chief operating officer in a company press release.
"The partial gear retraction seen during the flight is a graduated approach to building confidence in the landing gear and gear door hardware. Testing the left main landing gear individually mitigated risk and provided our aircrew with options for landing the aircraft in the event the hardware didn't perform as expected," Krevor said. "We'll review the data and determine when we can get back into the air to continue advancing our unique, hypersonic architecture."
The test flight included a low approach maneuver over the Mojave Air and Space Port.
In addition to testing the carrier aircraft, the team continues to make incredible strides in building its first two Talon-A test vehicles, TA-0 and TA-1. TA-1 completed its initial power-on testing in late December, keeping the company on track to begin hypersonic flight testing in 2022 and to deliver services to government and commercial customers in 2023.
Stratolaunch's mission is to advance high-speed technology through innovative design, manufacturing, and operation of world-class aerospace vehicles.