SuperDuper Fast Aircraft Lost In Test

Superfast Military Aircraft Lost in Test Flight
Tariq Malik, Managing Editor

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.

Monitoring stations further down range of the vehicle’s flight path  over the Pacific Ocean also did not find the hypersonic HTV-2 glider.  The vehicle is designed to crash itself into the ocean at the end of its  mission.

“Downrange assets did not reacquire tracking or telemetry.  HTV2 has  an autonomous flight termination capability,” DARPA officials wrote.

Whether  the test flight met all of its objecties still remains unclear, but  this is the second test flight of the Falcon HTV–2 program that ended  prematurely. An April 2010 test flight ended nine minutes into flight,  also due to loss of contact.

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.

A global strike capability

The  HTV-2 is part of a program called Prompt Global Strike called DARPA  (which is short for Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) to  develop advanced weapons systems with extreme range.

“The ultimate  goal is a capability that can reach anywhere in the world in less than  an hour.” DARPA officials wrote in a mission description. [7 Sci-Fi Weapons of Tomorrow Here Today ]

Today’s  launch is the second test flight for DARPA’s Falcon HTV test program.  An April 2010 launch lasted only nine minutes, when DARPA lost contact  with its HTV-1 vehicle shortly after it separated from its rocket  booster. The HTV vehicles were built for DARPA by Lockheed Martin Corp.

“The  HTV-2 vehicle is a ‘data truck’ with numerous sensors that collect data  in an uncertain operating envelope,” DARPA stated in a mission  description.



This diagram details the sequence of events of the hypersonic Falcon HTV-2 flight. CREDIT: DARPA

How the hypersonic HTV-2 should fly

For today’s hypersonic flight test,  the HTV-2 vehicle was expected to launch into suborbital space,  separate from its Orbital Sciences Corp.-built Minotaur 4 rocket, then  re-enter the atmosphere. During the re-entry phase, the vehicle was  expected to use rocket thrusters to help maintain its course, according  to a DARPA description.

After the re-entry maneuver, the HTV-2 was  slated to enter a pull-up phase to control its speed and altitude ahead  of the long glide back to Earth. During the glide, the vehicle is  programmed to perform maneuvers to test aerodynamic performance, DARPA  officials said.

The HTV-2 was expected to end its hypersonic test  flight by performing a roll maneuver to intentionally crash into the  Pacific Ocean. DARPA officials said more than 20 observing stations will  monitor the entire flight from space, land, ships and aircraft.

Hypersonic  tests in wind tunnels on the ground can typically recreate conditions  at speeds only up to Mach 15, and only for a few milliseconds at a time,  Schulz said.

“And even then we wouldn’t know exactly what to  expect based solely on the snapshots provided in ground testing,” Schulz  said. “Only flight testing reveals the harsh and uncertain reality.”

This story was provided by, a sister site to TechNewsDaily. You can follow Managing Editor Tariq Malik on Twitter @tariqjmalik. Follow for the latest in space science and exploration news on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.



One thought on “SuperDuper Fast Aircraft Lost In Test

  1. Pingback: Department of Defense Announces Successful Test of Army Advanced Hypersonic Weapon Concept « The Communicator

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