A product of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the Falcon Hypersonic Technology Vehicle 2, or HTV-2, an unmanned aircraft that could hit speeds of up to 13,000 miles per hour, fast enough to travel from New York to LA in 12 minutes.
Why all the fuss over the hypersonic aircraft? For starters, it’s part of the Pentagon’s interest in the concept of “prompt global strike” – the ability to reach out and touch targets on the other side of the globe, almost instantly, without going nuclear.
It’s a controversial subject in the arms-control world, but still a long way from reality. During the hypersonic vehicle’s flight last year, researchers lost contact with the HTV-2 just minutes after launch. Today’s flight, if successful, will focus on improving the understanding of hypersonic flight, and maintaining communication with – and control over – a craft that is hurtling along at 3.6 miles per second.
Originally scheduled to fly on the 10th, the HTV-2 made its test flight on August 11th, 2011…. with only minor glitches
On Thursday, 11 August, the HTV-2 experienced a flight anomaly post perigee and into the vehicle’s climb. The anomaly prompted the vehicle’s autonomous flight safety system to use the craft’s aerodynamic systems to make a controlled descent and splash down into the ocean. Controlled descent is a term typically associated with a human-in-the-loop directing or guiding the unscheduled landing of an aircraft. For DARPA’s Hypersonic Technology Vehicle 2 (HTV-2) controlled descent takes on new meaning thanks to the vehicle’s safety system.