Home Air Stratolaunch nears hypersonic flight milestone with Vandenberg AFB test

Stratolaunch nears hypersonic flight milestone with Vandenberg AFB test

Stratolaunch releases the Talon-0 (TA-0) separation test vehicle from its Roc air launch platform on May 13, 2023. Photo: Stratolaunch / Christian Turner

Hypersonic flight company Stratolaunch LLC says it completed a separation release test of the Talon-A separation test vehicle, TA-0, ahead of its planned first hypersonic flight later this year.

The May 13 flight was the eleventh for the company’s launch platform Roc – the world’s largest plane that serves as a launchpad for hypersonic and aerospace vehicles – and the second time the team has conducted flight operations in Vandenberg Space Force Base’s Western Range off California’s central coast.

The flight, which lasted a total of 4 hours and 8 minutes, performed risk reduction by demonstrating the Talon-A launch system can cleanly and safely separate hypersonic vehicles from Roc’s center-wing pylon. The test also confirmed telemetry between the vehicles and Vandenberg Space Force Base’s communication assets, assuring that back-up telemetry data collection will occur during future hypersonic flight tests.

With this landmark test complete, the team says they will progress toward to first hypersonic flight of the TA-1 expendable testbed in late summer of 2023.

“Today’s test was exceptional,” said Dr. Zachary Krevor, Chief Executive Officer and President for Stratolaunch. “It was exhilarating to see TA-0 release safely away from Roc, and I commend our team and partners. Our hardware and data collection systems performed as anticipated, and we now stand at the precipice of achieving hypersonic flight.”

“We also thank the Western Range, Vandenberg Space Force Base, for their continued support of our test operations. They have provided us with multiple flight opportunities and have been a great partner adapting to our various schedule requests as we adjusted our release window. We look forward to working together during our future operations pursuing hypersonic flight,” he said.

Stratolaunch already has a deal with the US Missile Defense Agency, under which it will be augmenting Pentagon’s existing flight test resources through commercially contracted hypersonic flight testing. More specifically, Stratolaunch will supply hypersonic threat-representative targets that will allow MDA to test ways of counteracting such threats.

TA-1 was scheduled to begin hypersonic flight testing in 2022 and begin delivering services to government and commercial customers in 2023. The company did not provide an update on when the vehicle could start with these services under the delayed schedule.