Stratolaunch Roc Aircraft Reaches New Heights in Seventh Flight

Roc takes off from the Mojave Air and Space Port on April 29, 2021. (Credit: Stratolaunch)

MOJAVE, Calif. (Stratolaunch PR) — Stratolaunch announces the completion of its seventh flight test of Roc, the world’s largest flying aircraft. The aircraft flew for 3 hours and 1 minute over the Mojave Desert and reached an altitude of 27,000 feet (8200 meters), a new altitude record for the aircraft. 

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Stratolaunch Debuts Talon-A Separation Test Vehicle

Stratolaunch’s Talon-A separation test vehicle, TA-0. (Image Credit: Domenic Moen/Stratolaunch)

MOJAVE, Calif. (Stratolaunch PR) — Stratolaunch is excited to announce the public debut of its structurally complete Talon-A test vehicle, TA-0, in this week’s issue of Aviation Week & Space Technology. This first Talon-A vehicle will be used to test and validate Roc’s release system and characterize the separation dynamics of the Talon vehicle. In addition to the first view of the vehicle by itself, the article also includes recent photos of the first mating of TA-0 to Roc’s pylon located on the center wing.

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Interview: Kimberly Slater of Draper Laboratory Discusses the Challenges of Hypersonic Flight

Kimberly Slater (Credit: Draper Laboratory)

by David Bullock
Staff Writer

Parabolic Arc conducted a Q&A with Kimberly Slater, the Commercial and Science Space Lead at Draper Laboratory, about the guidance, navigational and control software she has worked on for Stratolaunch’s Talon-A hypersonic test vehicle.

Tell me a little about yourself, your engineer and career background and how you got to work for Draper.

Right now I currently lead our civil commercial science space work at Draper, but my history before Draper was all in human space flight. My engineering degree is in man machine interface design. And everything I did before Draper was building, developing, testing, and flying scientific experiments on the space shuttle and space station. So, I did everything from design and build to writing software, writing the interface training manuals to the software—the procedure that the astronauts use on orbit—and then I did crew training for both the American and Russian crew for both space station and shuttle and then mission support and then mission control centers in both Moscow and Houston to support the mission. You know that whole ‘Houston we have a problem’ question when things on orbit and any anomaly has happened during that real time fast paced mission support. 

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Stratolaunch Carrier Aircraft Completes Fifth Flight with New Pylon

Stratolaunch completed its fifth test flight of Roc, on May 4, 2022. The flight debuted a new pylon that was integrated to the aircraft center wing. The pylon will be used to carry and release Talon hypersonic vehicles.

MOJAVE, Calif. (Stratolaunch PR) — Stratolaunch announces the successful completion of its fifth flight test of Roc, the world’s largest flying aircraft. The aircraft flew for 4 hours and 58 minutes over the Mojave Desert and reached an altitude of 22,500 feet (6858 m). 

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Roscosmos Plans Cooperation on Chinese Space Station, Prepares to Dump GPS in Russian Airliners and Ship New ICBMs

Roscosmos boss Dmitry Rogozin meets with Russia’s boss of bosses, President Vladimir Putin. (Credit: Russian President’s Office)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Vowing that cooperation in space with the West will resume on Russia’s terms, Roscosmos Director General Dmitry Rogozin said the space corporation is eyeing cooperation on China’s space station and begun efforts to replace the American Global Positioning System (GPS) in airplanes with Russian GLONASS satellite navigation system that is also capable of receiving navigation signals from China’s Beidou satellite constellation.

Rogozin also said Roscosmos plans to begin shipments of silo-based hypersonic Sarmat intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) in the fall amid continued tensions with the West over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The rocket was successfully test fired on Wednesday.

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Aerojet Rocketdyne’s Advanced Scramjet Engine Powers Successful Hypersonic Vehicle Flight

HUNTSVILLE, Ala., April 06, 2022 (Aerojet Rocketdyne PR) — An advanced Aerojet Rocketdyne scramjet engine powered the successful flight test of the Hypersonic Air-breathing Weapon Concept (HAWC), in a joint effort with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) and Lockheed Martin.

The goal of the DARPA / Lockheed Martin HAWC program is to develop and demonstrate critical technologies to enable an effective and affordable air-launched hypersonic cruise missile system.

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Stratolaunch Took to Air Two Years Ago

Stratolaunch takes off. (Credit: Stratolaunch)

Two years ago today, on April 13, 2019, Stratolaunch’s enormous dual fuselage aircraft with a 385-ft wingspan took off from the Mojave Air and Space Port trailing a cloud of dust. It flew over the Mojave Desert for 2 hours 29 minutes before landing back on runway 12-30.

The plane was the dream child of Scaled Composites’ founder Burt Rutan and funded by the billionaire co-founder of Microsoft, Paul Allen. It was designed to air launch satellites using a medium-size rocket.

Allen didn’t live to see the first, and thus far, only flight test of the aircraft. He passed away the previous October from non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

Stratolaunch flies (Credit: Stratolaunch)

His sister, Jody, was the executor of Allen’s estimated $20 billion estate. She decided to sell the company. The new owners are now preparing to use the aircraft to launch hypersonic test vehicles.

The giant aircraft was out on Runway 12-30 for several days last week. It was likely conducting some taxi tests. It is not clear when it will take to the skies again.

2020 a Busy Year for Suborbital Launches

New Shepard landing on the pad in West Texas on October 13, 2020, with the NASA Lunar Landing Sensor Demo onboard. (Credit: Blue Origin)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Suborbital launch used to be a sleepy field that rarely attracted much public attention. Let’s face it, atmospheric research and student experiments are not front-page news. Sounding rockets don’t have the majesty and power of a Falcon 9 or Atlas V.

In recent years, exciting new entrants in the field and widespread streaming of launches have made suborbital flights exciting. Last year saw important suborbital flight tests by SpaceX, Blue Origin, Virgin Galactic and Skyrora that garnered worldwide interest.

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Stratolaunch Selects Calspan to Build & Test Models for Talon-A Mach 6 Vehicle

Talon A hypersonic vehicle (Credit: Stratolaunch)

BUFFALO, NEW YORK, November 10, 2020 (Calspan PR) – Stratolaunch LLC, a leader in testing and development for the high-speed aerospace market, has chosen Calspan to build and test models of the fully reusable Talon-A autonomous, liquid rocket-powered Mach 6-class hypersonic vehicle. Under the contract, Calspan Systems, located in Newport News, Virginia will build the scale models, one of which will be tested in Calspan’s Transonic Wind Tunnel in Buffalo, NY.

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Virgin Galactic Pivots High-speed Aircraft Program in a Crowded Field

Credit: Douglas Messier

Virgin Galactic’s record of delays and broken promises raises doubts about its ambitious supersonic aircraft project as company founder Richard Branson fights to save his struggling empire in the midst of a global pandemic.

Updated on 10/27/20 at 12:39 p.m. PDT to include spending comparison of Virgin Orbit to Rocket Lab.

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Richard Branson’s dream of a suborbital Virgin Galactic vehicle zipping passengers between distant cities at hypersonic speeds above Mach 5 (6,174 km/h, 3,836 mph) is dead. At least for now.

In August, the space tourism company he founded pivoted to a slower supersonic Mach 3 (3,704 km/h, 2,302 mph) business jet. Virgin Galactic unveiled a mission concept for an aircraft that would carry 9-19 passengers at a cruising altitude of 60,000 ft (18,288 m).

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Supersonic & Hypersonic Civilian Transport Projects in Development

Overture supersonic passenger jet (Credit: Boom Supersonic)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Boom Supersonic’s recent rollout of its XB-1 supersonic demonstrator aircraft marked a milestone in an accelerating race to revive an era of civilian supersonic travel that ended when the Concorde jetliner was retired in 2003.

XB-1, aka Baby Boom, is set to begin flight tests next year from the Mojave Air and Space Port in California. The Mach 2.2 (2,717 km/h, 1,688 mph) vehicle is the precursor to Boom’s 55-seat Overture airliner, which is scheduled to begin carrying passengers in 2029.

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Hermeus Wins Air Force Investment After Demonstrating Mach 5 Engine

Mach 5 aircraft (Credit: Hermeus Corporation)

ATLANTA (Hermeus Corporation PR) — Hermeus Corporation, the aerospace company developing Mach 5 commercial aircraft, has partnered with the U.S. Air Force and the Presidential and Executive Airlift Directorate to work toward hypersonic travel for the Department of Defense.  This award comes under an Other Transaction For Prototype Agreement Direct to Phase II contract through AFWERX after Hermeus successfully tested a Mach 5 engine prototype in February 2020.

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A Look at SpaceX’s and Virgin Galactic’s Hypersonic Plans

I found this video entertaining. I’m not sure this guy has any grasp of the technological challenges or how SpaceX and Virgin Galactic are trying to tackle it.

He also calls a pair of routine pilot proficiency flights of WhiteKnightTwo at Spaceport America mysterious. Nothing really unusual about them. They conducted these flights at Mojave regularly.

Hypersonic sounds great, but it’s not clear when or if it will carry passengers. What we might be left with are hypersonic weapons indistinguishable from nuclear missiles. The chance of an accidental nuclear exchange could become much greater.