The infamous Roc airplane has successfully flown for over six hours, surpassing its previous record.

Stratolaunch Roc Talon-A
Photo: Gauntlet Aerospace | Christian Turner | Stratolaunch

This past week, aircraft manufacturer Stratolaunch made history by breaking its record for the longest sustained flight of its Roc aircraft. The aircraft, designed to carry hypersonic vehicles, proved capable of staying airborne for extended periods at a higher altitude than ever before. The new record is a significant milestone for the company as it demonstrates the project’s progression.

Record test

The recent test flight was the aircraft’s ninth and second captive carry flight. The aircraft manufacturer’s behemoth, called Roc, flew for its longest time, remaining in the air for over 6 hours. During this flight, the airplane reached a maximum altitude of 22,500 feet. Aside from reaching new heights and flying far longer than on any previous test, the team at Stratolaunch had several additional objectives for the test.

Stratolaunch ROC

Photo: Stratolaunch

Other objectives included flying outside the Mojave area and observing the separation environment for future flights. On this flight, the crew took Roc to various locations to help survey the safest places for separation tests. The mission provided developers with large amounts of data that can be utilized to help further program development. Stratolaunch has stated that the recent flight results show that the program is on track with its projected timeline.

A giant purpose

Roc is one of the largest airplanes ever constructed. However, unlike existing gargantuan aircraft used to carry cargo or passengers from point to point, Roc will be used for a different purpose. This modern marvel is built to haul other aircraft, missiles and vehicles. Other airplanes can carry other aircraft, such as the C-5 Galaxy and some large cargo planes. What makes Roc so unique is that its aircraft will separate and launch its payload in flight.

Stratolaunch Roc

Photo: Stratolaunch

The manufacturer has developed several plans for various aircraft that will be hauled by the airplane, but the primary one it is testing is the Talon-A (TA-O). TA-O is a hypersonic aircraft that gets a lift with Roc before detaching from its central airfoil. This recent test helped provide vital information concerning the aerodynamic loads on the aircraft before separation, information that will help ensure a safe separation between the aircraft.

Stratolaunch Roc

Photo: Stratolaunch

During the test, the flight crews also practiced chase formation and communication sequencing to give developers additional data in preparation for the upcoming separation test. The company plans to launch its first separation test sometime in the first half of 2023. The CEO and President of Stratolaunch, Zachary Krevor, shared how the successful test flight resulted from the team’s hard work. He also stated that the recent test results would be vital in the project’s progression. Krevor stated,

“Our amazing team is continuing to make progress on our test timeline, and it is through their hard work that we grow closer than ever to safe separation and our first hypersonic flight tests. The thorough evaluation of release conditions will provide data to reduce risks and ensure a clean and safe release of Talon-A during future tests.

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

What do you think of this recent test flight? Let us know in the comments below.


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