**Hypersonic History Made: World’s Largest Aircraft Releases Mini Space Shuttle on Maiden Flight**

Mojave Air and Space Port in California witnessed a historic moment on Saturday as the massive Roc aircraft, created and operated by Stratolaunch, took off carrying the Talon-A vehicle into the skies. The Talon-A vehicle, resembling a mini space shuttle, was deployed over the Pacific Ocean, marking the first official payload release for the colossal airplane.

The flight showcased the potential of the Talon-A vehicle, TA-1, designed to achieve hypersonic speeds, although it did not quite reach the Mach 5 threshold during the flight. Zachary Krevor, the chief executive of Stratolaunch, expressed satisfaction with the flight’s results, hinting at the valuable data collected for their customers.

The TA-1 vehicle serves as a stepping stone for future versions that will be reusable and capable of achieving hypersonic speeds. Stratolaunch aims to launch its next vehicle, TA-2, later this year, building upon the success of the TA-1 flight.

Stratolaunch’s journey to this milestone has been characterized by challenges and setbacks, with the company founded in 2011 by Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen to develop a carrier aircraft for mid-air rocket launches. Allen’s vision led to the creation of the Roc aircraft, boasting a wingspan of 117 meters, surpassing even the iconic Spruce Goose.

Despite initial hurdles, including failed partnerships with SpaceX and Orbital ATK, Stratolaunch persevered, eventually landing in the hands of private equity firm Cerberus in 2020. The company shifted its focus to launching hypersonic vehicles, aligning with the US military’s interest in advancing hypersonic technology amid global competition.

The recent flight not only marked a milestone for Stratolaunch but also highlighted the success of Ursa Major Technologies, whose Hadley rocket engine powered the TA-1 vehicle. Ursa Major, specializing in rocket propulsion engines, envisions a future with off-the-shelf solutions for launch customers, with plans to further develop its Ripley engine for medium-launch vehicles.