The Bakersfield Californian

Stratolaunch in Mojave wins another defense-related research contract


It wasn’t that many years ago that Mojave-based Stratolaunch was famous for building the world’s largest airplane, and mostly leaving it in its massive hangar to collect dust.

But the company, begun by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, changed hands following Allen’s death in 2019, and since then, it has changed its focus toward “advancing America’s capability in hypersonic flight,” Zachary Krevor, Stratolaunch president and chief operating officer, said last year.

Earlier this year, Stratolaunch bought a modified Boeing 747 from satellite launch company Virgin Orbit. In October, it signed a contract with the Air Force Research Laboratory.

And this week, Stratolaunch

LLC announced the receipt of a flight test contract award from Leidos, the prime contractor for the Navy’s Multiservice Advanced Capability Test Bed, known as MACH-TB.

“We’re excited for the opportunity for Talon-A flights to support the goals of the MACH-TB program,” Krevor stated in a news release Wednesday, referring to Stratolaunch’s hypersonic test plane.

The contract award is funded by an alphabet soup of acronym-thick organizations, like Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division through the Strategic and Spectrum Missions Advanced Resilient Trusted Systems (S²MARTS), and more.

What does it all mean? The contract award will fund five Talon-A hypersonic flights and optional payloads.

Hypersonic speeds refer to five to 10 times the speed of sound.

Kate Squires, senior marketing and communications manager at Stratolaunch, said she can’t get into details about the nature of the payloads, but noted that “the hypersonic envelope is challenging and harsh.”

Extreme temperatures, vibration and other conditions make it necessary to test individual components involved in flight at such blazing speeds.

According to the news release, the Leidos-led team intends to deliver an affordable solution, leveraging commercial launch vehicles, including Stratolaunch’s Talon-A hypersonic vehicle, for flight testing hypersonic payloads.

The data collected is designed to provide insight to the Department of Defense regarding “technology improvement and capability validation.”

Early, affordable, and regular hypersonic flight testing is key, suggesting this week’s contract with the Mojave company could be just the beginning.

Leidos Program Manager for MACH-TB Andy Crocker said Leidos is delighted that Stratolaunch joined the team, a group that is “working to provide fast and affordable hypersonic flight test capabilities to the nation.

“Using air launch and the Talon-A reusable vehicle offers unique opportunities to advance the maturity of hypersonic technologies,” he said.

Steven Mayer can be reached at 661-395-7353.





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