Unmanned hypersonic vehicle completes first flight | WORLD
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Unmanned hypersonic vehicle completes first flight

Stratolaunch operates its six-engine carrier aircraft. Associated Press/Photo by Matt Hartman

Unmanned hypersonic vehicle completes first flight

Stratolaunch on Saturday completed the first powered flight of its Talon-A test vehicle, called TA-1, off the coast of California. While the company did not release exact flight speed or altitude information, president and CEO Zachary Krevor said TA-1 reached supersonic speeds approaching Mach 5, or five times the speed of sound. The company launched TA-1 in mid-air from its six-engine carrier aircraft. After its high-speed flight, it came to rest in a controlled water landing.

What is the company’s goal for the vehicle? Though TA-1 was a single-use vehicle, Stratolaunch is developing versions of the machine intended to be reusable and capable of landing on a runway. “Our goal with this flight was to continue our risk reduction approach for TA-2’s first reusable flight,” Krevor said in a statement.

Who founded the company? Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen created the company in 2011 and it came under new ownership in 2019 after Allen died the previous year. The company in 2022 signed a research contract with the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory to conduct hypersonic flight tests on Air Force experiments and payloads. A U.S. Navy contractor last year awarded Stratolaunch a contract for five Talon-A hypersonic flights.

Dig deeper: Read Heather Frank’s report in Beginnings about interpreting the space travel craze.

Lauren Canterberry

Lauren Canterberry is a reporter for WORLD. She graduated from the World Journalism Institute and the University of Georgia with a degree in journalism, both in 2017. She worked as a local reporter in Texas and now lives in Georgia with her husband.

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