Stratolaunch’s gigantic “Roc” carrier aircraft successfully completed its third test flight on Sunday, reaching an altitude of 23,500 feet and airspeed of 180 knots. The flight lasted 4 hours and 23 minutes with test objectives including “evaluation of the aircraft’s performance and handling characteristics at increased speeds and altitude” and “validation of the left mid-main gear operations.” Designed to serve as an aerial launchpad for hypersonic and aerospace vehicles, the dual-fuselage, six-engine Roc has a wingspan of 385 feet, maximum takeoff weight of 1.3 million pounds and payload capacity of over 500,000 pounds.
“Today’s successful flight demonstrates and validates improvements to the carrier aircraft’s systems and overall flight performance,” said Stratolaunch President and COO Zachary Krevor. “We will take the data we gathered today and continue to advance the aircraft’s operational performance to support hypersonic testing in 2022.”
As previously reported by AVweb, Roc flew for the first time in 2019 and completed its second test flight in April 2021. Stratolaunch is also building the first of its Talon-A rocket-powered, autonomous testbed aircraft, which will be capable of launching from the carrier and traveling at speeds above Mach 5. The company reports that initial power-on testing of the first Talon-A was completed in late December and it is on track to begin flight testing this year.