Stratolaunch, LLC announced that it has received approval from the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware to acquire Virgin Orbit's modified Boeing 747 and its related parts and equipment, marking an expansion of Stratolaunch's air-launch fleet. The acquisition is expected to close by July 31, 2023.
Stratolaunch is a technology accelerator that enables reusable and routine hypersonic testing through world-class aerospace vehicles and in-flight test capabilities. Upon closing of the acquisition, the additional aircraft will be repurposed as a launch platform for Stratolaunch's Talon-A reusable hypersonic testbeds and is expected to be fully operational in 2024.
The expansion of Stratolaunch's fleet will increase its in-flight test capacity and ability to support government and commercial customers globally.
"The addition of this aircraft is a transformational milestone," said Dr. Zachary Krevor, President and CEO of Stratolaunch. "With Roc remaining as our mainstay aircraft, an additional 747 brings expanded capabilities and flexibility to our platform. We will be able to increase both our flight test capacity and reach to become an even stronger partner to global customers."
The acquisition of the modified 747 follows Stratolaunch's first successful Talon-A vehicle separation test on May 13. During the separation release trial, Stratolaunch demonstrated clean and safe separation of hypersonic vehicles and confirmed telemetry between the vehicles and on-the-ground communication assets. With this landmark test complete, Stratolaunch will progress toward its first hypersonic flight of the TA-1 expendable testbed in late summer 2023.
"The need for hypersonic testing has never been greater and we are committed to fulfilling this national imperative," Krevor said. "We are making tremendous strides as we continue to enable the future of hypersonic testing. With the recent successful Talon-A separation test, we are excited to prepare for our first hypersonic flight of the TA-1 testbed."
The acquisition is subject to customary closing conditions. Following closing of the acquisition, the aircraft will undergo maintenance and modification to accommodate its new hypersonic test mission. The launch platform will also be renamed in the coming months.