The world’s largest aeroplane recently completed its second successful test flight over the Mojave Desert in California.
The Stratolaunch hypersonic test-flight carrier, nicknamed “the Roc”, took to the skies for the first time in two years.
It flew for three hours and fourteen minutes, reaching an altitude of 14,000 ft (4,267m).
This flight brings Stratolaunch another step closer to achieving its goal of using the Roc to air-launch hypersonic vehicles.
The dual-fuselage aeroplane has a wingspan of around 117m and is powered by six Boeing 747 engines.
It was built to withstand a maximum load capacity of 1.3 million pounds (589,670kg).
The image below from Stratolaunch shows how the size of the Roc compares to a Boeing 747 airliner.
The initial plan for the Stratolaunch aircraft carrier was to provide a fast, cost-effective way to air-launch small satellites into space.
Since the death of Paul Allen, a co-founder of both Stratolaunch and Microsoft, the company’s mission has changed to use it as a launch vehicle for hypersonic flight testing.
The term hypersonic is used to describe speeds exceeding Mach 5 – five times the speed of sound.
Below are images of the Stratolaunch aircraft carrier.
The aircraft carrier will launch Stratolaunch’s reusable and autonomous Talon-A hypersonic vehicle, a liquid-powered rocket that is intended to serve as a hypersonic testbed for the U.S Department of Defence.
Once deployed, Talon-A will fire its liquid-fueled rocket engine to thrust itself higher in the atmosphere for a minute of hypersonic flight. Afterwards, it will glide back down to a traditional runway for an autonomous landing.
In addition, the company has started assembling an expendable version of its Talon-A, and it should be ready for testing early next year.
The images below are digital renderings of the Talon-A.
Watch the flight
The following video shows the aircraft carrier making a low approach over the runway during its successful second flight test.
Just completely a low approach over the runway. pic.twitter.com/UCEINXBQBi
— Stratolaunch (@Stratolaunch) April 29, 2021