Stratolaunch Roc completes its second successful test flight

Stratolaunch is a company that plans to launch hypersonic vehicles not from a runway on the ground but from beneath an airplane soaring high into the Earth's atmosphere. The aircraft that will launch the hypersonic vehicles is called the Stratolaunch Roc, and yesterday the company completed its second-ever test flight of the massive aircraft. The Roc is the largest aircraft ever built.

The gigantic aircraft has a wingspan of 385 feet and took off from the Mojave Air and Space Port in Southern California at 10:28 AM EDT on Thursday, April 29. The test flight was a data-gathering mission lasting three hours and 14 minutes. Roc reached a maximum altitude of 14,000 feet during the test flight and a top speed of 199 mph.

Stratolaunch issued a statement saying that the company was very pleased with how the aircraft performed and was excited about how much closer the aircraft is to launch its first hypersonic vehicle. The first test flight for the aircraft happened in April 2019. Originally, Stratolaunch was envisioned as a way to launch satellites at a lower cost from the air.

The company was sold in October 2019, and Roc's mission changed to serve as a mobile launch platform for hypersonic vehicles. The company is developing its own family of hypersonic vehicles, including a reusable 28-foot-long aircraft called Talon-A. The massive Roc aircraft can carry payloads, test materials, and fly in various profiles that are interesting to the US military.

The military is interested in hypersonic vehicles both for offensive and defensive use. If all goes as planned, Roc will carry a Talon-A test vehicle early in 2022. That first Talon test vehicle will be a single-use aircraft, with the reusable version being test flown in 2023.