The world’s largest aircraft completes a record-breaking six-hour test flight

The world’s largest aircraft completes a record-breaking six-hour test flight

The world’s largest aircraft, with a wingspan of 383 feet, recently took to the skies over California’s Mojave Desert for a six-hour test flight to set a new record.

The Stratolaunch Roc carrier aircraft, or Roc, performed its second test flight Friday morning while carrying the Talon-A separation test vehicle.

The Talon-A (TA-O) is a 28-foot reusable test aircraft capable of transporting payloads at supersonic speeds—more than five times the speed of sound.

The flight is a significant step in the company’s progress towards the separation test and its first hypersonic flight of TA-1 within the first half of 2023.

The Stratolaunch Roc carrier aircraft set a new flight record on Friday when it completed six hours in the sky

The primary objectives for Friday’s flight, which is the aircraft’s ninth launch, included the first flight outside of the local Mojave area and assessment of the separation environment.

Zachary Krevor, Chief Executive Officer and President of Stratolaunch, said in a statement, “Our amazing team continues to make progress on our testing schedule and their hard work brings us closer than ever to safe separation and our first hypersonic flight test.”

Talon-A is one of a series of rocket-powered Talon vehicles being developed by Stratolaunch that can reach speeds of up to Mach 6, or six times the speed of sound.

The Roc will now conduct a drop test of the Talon-A prototype over the Pacific Ocean in December, and if successful, the company intends to unveil its first hypersonic test vehicle, the Talon-A TA-1.

Stratolaunch is also making strides in manufacturing its first and second fully reusable hypersonic vehicles, the TA-2 and TA-3.

“Thorough assessment of release conditions will provide data to reduce risk and ensure clean and safe release of Talon-A in future testing,” said Krevor.

“We’re excited for what lies ahead this year as we bring our hypersonic flight test service online for our customers and the nation.”

Stratolaunch’s Roc is wider than the length of a football field from goal to goal, generally around 345 feet.

It weighs around 500,000 pounds without a load but could take off with a maximum weight of 1.3 million pounds.

The plane rolls around with the help of 28 wheels. Once airborne, it will be powered by six 747 aircraft engines.

It was developed by a company of the same name founded in 2011 by the late Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, who introduced the massive craft to the world in 2019.

Roc, conducted his second test flight on Friday morning while carrying the Talon-A separation test vehicle

Roc, conducted his second test flight on Friday morning while carrying the Talon-A separation test vehicle

Stratolaunch's Roc is wider than the length of a football field from goal to goal, generally around 345 feet

Stratolaunch’s Roc is wider than the length of a football field from goal to goal, generally around 345 feet

Allen died of complications from non-Hodgkin lymphoma in October 2018 at the age of 65, less than a year before Stratolaunch first flew.

Allen intended to use the Stratolaunch plane to launch satellite-loaded rockets from the air into space, but after its maiden flight it was bought by Cerberus Capital Management.

The new owners of the ambitious company initially plan to use it as a carrier aircraft for launches of reusable hypersonic flight research vehicles.

The H-shaped Roc aircraft has two fuselages like a catamaran, a multihull watercraft with two parallel fuselages of the same size.

The flight is a significant step in the company's progress towards the separation test and its first hypersonic flight from TA-1 in the first half of 2023. Here is Roc's landing after it broke its record

The flight is a significant step in the company’s progress towards the separation test and its first hypersonic flight from TA-1 in the first half of 2023. Here is Roc’s landing after it broke its record

Roc takes a crew of three – pilot, co-pilot and flight engineer – who sit in the right fuselage and steer the plane well to the right of centerline, a bit like the Millennium Falcon in Star Wars.

The left hull has what appears to be a cockpit with windows for spectators, but the section is empty and depressurized.

The Stratolaunch aircraft is powered by the same engines used in the Boeing 747 and has a top speed of 530 mph (853 km/h).

In addition to its record-breaking width, Roc has an impressive height – it stands 50 feet from the ground to the top of its vertical stabilizer, which is taller than a four-story building.