August 29, 2011
Initial reports from an August 11 test of DARPA’s Falcon HTV-2 hypersonic research vehicle were mixed. The glider launched successfully and separated from its Minotaur IV rocket over the Pacific, but engineers lost contact with the vehicle nine minutes into the flight, and the test ended prematurely with the vehicle self-destructing according to safety procedures. The HTV’s first test, in April, also had ended early with a loss of telemetry at around the same time.
Now DARPA has had more time to go over test data collected by more than 20 sensors positioned on the ground, sea, and air during the August flight. And while still stingy with details about the cause of the premature shutdown, an agency press release says that the Falcon did in fact achieve stable, aerodynamically controlled Mach 20 flight for nearly three minutes, as initial data suggested.
DARPA even produced video, taken from a tracking ship in the Pacific.
And just for fun, here’s an animation showing how easily the HTV-2 would blow past an F-18 poking along at Mach 1.5.
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