On October 14, 18 months will be completed since the inaugural flight of the ‘ROC’, the nickname given to the massive two-fuselage aircraft built by the company Stratolaunch.
Owner of the largest wingspan in history, the aircraft took off for the first time on April 14, 2019 and was soon stored in the company’s hangar at Mojave Airport.
Despite the remarkable moment, Stratolaunch was going through a delicate phase after the death of its founder, Paul G. Allen, in October 2018. The flight turned out to be a last effort to honor the entrepreneur and co-founder of Microsoft.
In debt, the company laid off many of its employees while looking for a new investor. A year ago, Vulcan, Allen’s company, announced that Stratolaunch had been acquired, but without revealing who the buyer was.
Since then, the company has hired employees again and prepared for the ‘ROC’ to return to skies. However, the mission of the six-engine plane has changed: instead of launching rockets into space, it will now be a platform for developing hypersonic flight technology.
On September 24, Stratolaunch released images of the Talon-A project, whose concept was undergoing high-speed aerodynamic testing.
Wingspan 385 feet
Meanwhile, the ‘ROC’ ‘came to life’ again thanks to tests to prepare it for its second takeoff. Stratolaunch intended to fly the giant back in September, but the schedule was delayed. However, it is believed that the aircraft’s second flight will take place in the coming weeks.
Conceived as an air launcher, the ‘ROC’ was part of Allen’s ambitious program that included rockets and spacecraft capable of offering various services for both governments and companies in space exploration.
Stratolaunch hired Scaled Composites to design an aircraft that could transport heavy vehicles between its two fuselages. The solution was to install six PW4056 turbofans, used by the Boeing 747-400, and develop wings with a wingspan of 385 feet.
Fortunately, the second flight of the ‘ROC’ will mark the revival of a program that has come to an end.