According to Stratolaunch, the successful flight confirms the aircraft’s performance and capability. It also validates the enhancements done to the carrier aircraft since its previous flight.
Stratolaunch is developing its own family of hypersonic vehicles, including a reusable 28-foot-long (8.5 m) craft called Talon-A, which will be the first to fly with Roc. But that won’t happen for a while yet; Roc needs to make several additional solo flights first. Stratolaunch’s goal is to be able to air-launch the reusable Talon-A from its carrier aeroplane. The Mach 6-class hypersonic vehicle is expected to provide 60 seconds of hypersonic flight before gliding back for an autonomous landing on a conventional runway.
Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen established Stratolaunch in 2011 with the idea that Roc would be used to launch satellites in mid-air. But Allen died in October 2018 without seeing the twin-fuselage Roc get off the ground. The company was sold in October 2019 to its current owners, who recast Roc’s role. The plane will now serve as a mobile launch platform for hypersonic vehicles, manoeuvrable craft that travel at least five times faster than the speed of sound.