Thursday, August 11, 2011

Hypersonic Falcon goes silent ...

An unmanned DARPA hypersonic glider — a prototype for a global strike weapons program — launched on its second test flight Thursday (Aug. 12) in a bid to fly at the mind-blowing speed of Mach 20.

The DARPA glider, called the Falcon Hypersonic Test Vehicle 2 (HTV-2), blasted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California atop a Minotaur 4 rocket at 7:45 a.m. PDT.

According to DARPA updates, the test flight appeared to go well until the glide phase, when monitoring stations lost contact with the HTV-2 vehicle. [Photos: DARPA Hypersonic Glider's Mach 20 Test]

"Range assets have lost telemetry with HTV2," DARPA officials wrote in a Twitter post about 36 minutes after launch.

The HTV-2 vehicle was expected to reach suborbital space, then re-enter Earth's atmosphere and glide at hypersonic speed to demonstrate controllable flight at velocities of around Mach 20, which is about 13,000 mph. At that speed, more than 20 times the speed of sound, a vehicle could fly from New York City to Los Angeles in 12 minutes, DARPA officials said.

A video animation of the HTV-2 flight test depicts how the the hypersonic vehicle was expected to pop free of its rocket, then soar through Earth's atmosphere for an inevitable, and intentional, plunge into the Pacific Ocean at the end of its mission.

"Assumptions about Mach 20 hypersonic flight were made from physics-based computational models and simulations, wind tunnel testing, and data collected from HTV-2's first test flight — the first real data available in this flight regime at Mach 20," said Air Force Maj. Chris Schulz, HTV-2 program manager, in a statement. "It's time to conduct another flight test to validate our assumptions and gain further insight into extremely high Mach regimes that we cannot fully replicate on the ground."

Read the rest of the story at SPACE.COM


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