Stratolaunch Unveils Talon-A 2, Its Fully Recoverable And Reusable Hypersonic Vehicle

Talon A
The fully assembled Talon-A TA-2 vehicle. (Photo: Stratolaunch)

TA-2 is fully assembled and undergoing integrated systems tests, with the first flight expected later this year.

A couple of weeks after the first flight of the Talon-A TA-1 test vehicle, Stratolaunch has now released some photos of the fully assembled TA-2 vehicle, which is now undergoing integrated systems testing. The difference with TA-1 is that the new vehicle has been designed to be fully recoverable and reusable, as it is able to land on a runway and fly again.

The Talon-A TA-1 was a single use aircraft which splashed in the ocean at the end of its tests, but Stratolaunch’s goal is to obtain a fully reusable vehicle that can make access to the hypersonic flight environment more routine and affordable. The data from this first powered flight will be used to continue the preparation of the new vehicle’s first flight.

“Our goal with this flight was to continue our risk reduction approach for TA-2’s first reusable flight and be steadfast on our commitment of delivering maximum value to our customers,” said Dr. Zachary Krevor, President and CEO of Stratolaunch, after TA-1’s flight. “We are excited to review the data from today’s test and use it as we plan our next steps toward TA-2’s first flight later this year.”

Talon-A TA-1 is released from the launch platform Roc. (Photo: Stratolaunch)

TA-2, the third airframe built so far, has been equipped with a landing gear and is designed to recover for landing at Vandenberg Space Force Base after each flight, according to Aviation Week. Another Talon-A, TA-3, is also being assembled, with the U.S. Air Force providing funds to support the manufacture and at least one test flight.

The first powered flight of Talon-A

On March 9, 2024, Stratolaunch successfully completed the first powered flight of the Talon-A test vehicle TA-1. The Talon-A was released from the Scaled Composites Model 351 Stratolaunch, also known as “Roc”, a six-engine, twin fuselage aircraft which is currently the aircraft with the world’s largest wingspan.

According to the company, primary objectives for the flight test included accomplishing safe air-launch release of the TA-1 vehicle, engine ignition, acceleration, sustained climb in altitude, and a controlled water landing. Stratolaunch tried to recover some remains of the TA-1 vehicle, however no details were provided whether the attempt was successful.

The first powered flight did not achieve hypersonic speeds, although it got close. “While I can’t share the specific altitude and speed TA-1 reached due to proprietary agreements with our customers, we are pleased to share that in addition to meeting all primary and customer objectives of the flight, we reached high supersonic speeds approaching Mach 5 and collected a great amount of data at an incredible value to our customers,” said Dr. Krevor.

The unmanned Talon-A can carry payloads up to 1,000 pounds and Roc can carry three of them during a single flight. The engine installed on Talon-A is the Ursa Major Hadley oxidizer-rich staged combustion cycle rocket engine, which uses kerosene and liquid oxygen to obtain a 22-kilonewton (5,000 lbf) thrust.

Stratolaunch is also working on another launch platform, the Boeing 747-400 carrier aircraft formerly used by Virgin Orbit, which is being repurposed with a new livery and a new name, “Spirit of Mojave”. The Boeing 747 is more compact than Roc, making it easy to accommodate launches in any location with minimal ground support. The platform also hosts a mobile control center for real-time mission operations.

About Stefano D'Urso
Stefano D'Urso is a freelance journalist and contributor to TheAviationist based in Lecce, Italy. A graduate in Industral Engineering he's also studying to achieve a Master Degree in Aerospace Engineering. Electronic Warfare, Loitering Munitions and OSINT techniques applied to the world of military operations and current conflicts are among his areas of expertise.