Stratolaunch's enormous Roc carrier aircraft aced its seventh test flight yesterday (June 16), flying higher than it ever has before.
Roc, which will eventually carry into the sky hypersonic vehicles developed by Stratolaunch, reached a maximum altitude of 27,000 feet (8,200 meters) yesterday during a flight over the Mojave Desert in California that lasted three hours and one minute .
"The seventh flight focused on continuing Roc's flight envelope expansion with the recent addition of the pylon on the aircraft's center wing," Stratolaunch representatives said in a statement yesterday (opens in new tab). (The pylon is the attachment point for hypersonic vehicles Roc will haul aloft.)
Other major objectives met on the flight included reviewing the aircraft's performance, handling and landing gear, the company said.
The massive airplane, which has a wingspan of 385 feet (117 m), is designed to release payloads high in the sky for purposes like hypersonic flight. One such payload is Talon-A, Stratolaunch's 28-foot-long (8.5 m) hypersonic vehicle prototype. Talon-A is designed to fly as fast as Mach 6, or six times the speed of sound.
Stratolaunch plans to continue developing Talon-A for hypersonic missions, with operational flights scheduled to begin in 2023, if all goes according to plan. In its most recent release, the company said that the program to get Talon-A ready is making good progress.
"The company is also making solid progress on system integration of its first hypersonic flight test vehicle, TA-1, and on the fabrication of a third vehicle, TA-2, the first fully reusable hypersonic test vehicle," Stratolaunch representatives wrote.