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Stratolaunch’s giant Roc airplane flies for 1st time with Talon engineering vehicle attached

Test engineering vehicle attached below Roc
Test engineering vehicle attached on Roc

Stratolaunch yesterday successfully flew its giant Roc airplane with a Talon hypersonic engineering vehicle attached for the first time to its central fuselage.

The flight lasted just over five hours, reached an altitude of 23,000 feet, and was “focused on measuring the aerodynamic loads on the Talon-A vehicle while mated to Roc. The loads captured in flight will validate aerodynamic predictions to ensure the release mechanism will function as designed.”

The company will complete a series of captive carry flights in the coming months, culminating in a separation test of the TA-0 vehicle out over the Pacific Ocean in late 2022.

Even as these flight tests proceed, the company is building the actual Talon flight vehicles, designed as testbeds for doing hypersonic flight tests quickly and relatively cheaply. The plan is to have these flight vehicles ready for both military and commercial customers to fly them by ’23.

Genesis cover

On Christmas Eve 1968 three Americans became the first humans to visit another world. What they did to celebrate was unexpected and profound, and will be remembered throughout all human history. Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, tells that story, and it is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, both with a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.

The ebook is available everywhere for $5.99 (before discount) at amazon, or direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit. If you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and the author gets a bigger cut much sooner.

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  • Concerned

    It’s already flown more than H. Hughes’ pride H-4 Hercules (more colloquially known as the Spruce Goose), but this Roc monstrosity will be about as useful and long-lived as the Bristol Brabizon

    Well all else fails, best to try to milk the government for failing concepts.

  • Brendan

    Don’t know if you saw this. Looks pretty exciting.

    Large chunks of ice… at the equator.

  • Brendan: See my post from yesterday:

    Note that this is not at the equator, but well above it. The presence of ice chunks is really not a surprise at all, based on its location. NASA is overselling this fact, depending on the ignorance of most modern reporters.

  • Jeff Wright

    I wish the Stratolauncher Roc a long life.

  • Mark

    Wouldn’t a modified 747 like Cosmic Girl be orders of magnitude cheaper to use than Roc? Launcher One is 30 tons v/s Talon-A 3 tons. Unless the 1.8m and 3.4m diameter of each launch vehicle respectively is the limiting factor, I’d go w/ a 747.

  • geoffc

    That Talon looks mighty tiny under the mighty Roc.

  • pzatchok

    They want to be able to drive any vehicle under the craft and lift it into place.
    They want to be able to do this at any airport around the world.

    Its the same reasoning they used that rubber and liquid O2 rocket engine.
    You can not transport rocket engines everywhere in the world with out express permission and huge fees and paperwork. But a rubber can doesn’t need any permissions or paperwork. And liquid O2 can be found anyplace they have good hospitals and airports.

    Any 747 would have to be heavily modified. The wings would need to be moved to the top. The engines and landing gear would have to be moved outward and the whole bottom would have to be removed and replaced with a hard point for the rocket. The landing gear might even need to be lengthened to give the plane more height.

  • Mark


    While I am not sure how many airports have runways wide enough to accommodate the wide span and weight of Roc’s landing gear, the wing height above runway is probably the biggest limiting factor preventing the use of a 747 engine ferry pylon. It is too bad they could not mount test rockets on top of the 747 fuselage al la the space shuttle but this is probably not feasible during the release of the test article since they could not dive fast enough to prevent a collision w/ the tail. Thanks for your comments.

  • George C

    The ROC has a huge payload of 500,000 lbs to 30,000ft in
    The Space Shuttle carrier barely got to 15,000ft.
    Exactly what you would use the ROC for is not clear to me. Not as a big rocket booster, but it could launch 10 small rockets.

  • Skunk Bucket

    Reminds me of those flatbed semi-trucks that deadhead with a plastic Tonka truck strapped to the center of the bed.

  • Edward

    Mark asked: “Wouldn’t a modified 747 like Cosmic Girl be orders of magnitude cheaper to use than Roc?

    Cheaper, yes. I’m not sure it would be orders of magnitude, but the 747 was designed with economy in mind. Orbital Sciences used an L-1011 and Virgin Orbit uses a 747. However, Stratolaunch came with this aircraft. It may be overkill, like using a sledgehammer to drive in a tack, but this is what they have on hand for use right now.

    My hope is that the company derives another rocket for orbital launches with Roc, but I am not holding my breath.

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