DARPA has launched an unmanned hypersonic gliding vehicle that can reach speeds up to Mach 20 (13,000mph). The Falcon program aims to develop and demonstrate hypersonic technologies for prompt use in global reach missions and the Falcon Hypersonic Technology Vehicle 2 (HTV-2) forms part of this quest to produce an unmanned, rocket-launched, maneuverable air vehicle that glides through the Earth’s atmosphere at incredibly fast speeds.
Shot into the sky via the Minotaur Lite launch system, the HTV-2 glide vehicle separated successfully just outside the atmosphere and was operational for nine minutes, short of its target of 30 minutes, until its signal was lost (currently under investigation). It was anticipated the HTV-2 would reach speeds of 13,000mph and travel 4,100 nautical miles in around 30 minutes – from lift-off to impact in the ocean north of the Reagan Test Site in the Kwajalein Atoll.
The launch/flight, which completed many “firsts” for DARPA, was monitored by three test ranges, six sea-based and two airborne telemetry collection assets.
The Falcon program aims to develop and demonstrate hypersonic technologies for prompt use in global reach missions. The program team is breaking new ground discovering technologies and materials with high lift-to-drag techniques that can withstand extreme temperatures; precision navigation, guidance, and control; communication techniques through plasma; and an autonomous flight safety system.
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