Just over two years after making its maiden flight, Stratolauch’s six-engine ‘Roc‘ jet took off from Mojave Airport for the second time on Thursday.
The 385-foot wingspan, the largest ever built in aviation history, remained in the air for 3 hours and 14 minutes reaching an altitude of 14,000 feet (4,267 m).
The future of the massive plane, which has a payload capacity only matched by the Antonov An-225, was uncertain until the middle of last year, when Stratolaunch was acquired by an investment group and changed its main business.
Founded Paul G. Allen, a former partner of Bill Gates at Microsoft, the company intended to offer rocket and spacecraft launch services more affordably with the help of ‘Roc’.
Stratolaunch’s new management preferred to try to attract hypersonic aircraft designs, which need launches at about 30,000 feet, the main purpose of the six-engine jet and twin fuselages.
We are airborne! pic.twitter.com/6jTkkqfjKd— Stratolaunch (@Stratolaunch) April 29, 2021
“Stratolaunch is advancing our nation’s ability to be a worldwide leader in the hypersonic market,” said Dr. Daniel R. Millman, Chief Technology Officer of Stratolaunch. “Our flight today gets us another step closer to our promise of delivering the world’s premier hypersonic flight test service.”
The first hypersonic vehicle that will be launched by the carrier aircraft will be the Talon-A, an autonomous and reusable rocket plane with 28 feet in length and a wingspan of 14 feet. He will be able to reach Mach 6 in a 60-second flight and then land on a common runway.
The aircraft is already under assembly, but Stratolaunch has not released a launch forecast.
The second flight of the ‘Roc’ showed evolutions applied by the company such as pressurization, gear doors, and robustness to the safety systems. The giant plane, however, still has a long way to go, hopefully now with more frequent flights.